More explicit guidelines on what makes a good post? July 15, 2016 10:29 AM   Subscribe

This article by a closeted trans woman has been posted three times, and deleted three times, after a few early comments on the first posting largely agreed with another trans woman's critical take. The deletion reasons have repeatedly cited "a number of elements" that "will make it really hard to have a good discussion". I would appreciate the mods or the general community saying what those elements are, and perhaps expanding the post guidelines to provide a permanent reference. Implicit social norms beyond the obvious "don't be a jerk" are exhausting to parse, especially in a text-only medium. Whatever was objectionable about the article, please just spell it out.

Maybe there were deleted comments, or flags and messages to the mods complaining about some issue with the article that I just missed. Which is exactly why I'm asking, so that I won't miss it. To me the post seemed like the potential start of a discussion about issues raised in the article, even if MeFi's consensus opinion wouldn't entirely agree with the author.

I'm aware of other topics that Metafilter consistently "doesn't do well"—Israel vs. Palestine, pit bulls, Clinton vs. Sanders, basically any morally-important issue where two college-educated young urban liberals can still disagree on principles. (Obviously we still discuss Clinton vs. Sanders because it's too topical not to, and it's a temporary issue anyway.) But I don't see why this article would fall in that category.

There's a definite consensus here that gender, sex, and orientation are separate concepts, that people can transition even later in their life or not at all, and (I hope) that one can be transgender without having a gender studies degree, or deferring to what a typical gender studies major would say about your personal experience. The author clearly is not a troll; they're expressing a sincere view that just can't be boiled down to "this particular sociopolitical -ism is 100% correct". So what principle makes them, not just "less happy than you think they could be if they transitioned", but "too wrong or bad to be spoken of"?

I've seen intelligent responses to the article on Tumblr and Reddit (yes, even Reddit, on certain subreddits at least), respecting the author and not dismissing them from either end of the ideological spectrum. I hope that Metafilter is also capable of discussing issues without a convenient hero and villain. If not, I think the undiscussable topics and viewpoints should be explicitly listed. Guess Culture is hard enough to deal with face-to-face. On the internet, lacking tone of voice and facial expressions, it's unreasonable to expect people to internalize a bunch of unspoken rules, when members can have all kinds of cultural backgrounds and non-shared assumptions. There should at least be an effort to observe what our social norms really are and describe them for everyone, even—especially—if one of those norms is "it's crass/rude/wrong to spell out these rules, because the worthy people will figure them out".
posted by Rangi to Etiquette/Policy at 10:29 AM (157 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Quick note before getting into detail: this is not and will not become a proxy FPP for the article in question, or for an argument about trans issues or any of the other stuff the article touches on.

If you want to discuss the MetaFilter policy and practice issues the post is raising, okay; if you want to have the conversation you would have had in the post on the blue had it been left up, this is not the place for it. Thank you for abiding by this.

So:

Whatever was objectionable about the article, please just spell it out.

To be very clear, the issue isn’t that the article is somehow fundamentally objectionable—if it were that simple I think it wouldn’t have been posted multiple times, and we’ve have been clear about e.g. “this seems like a crappy article” in the deletion reason. Likewise, it’s not, as you suggest, an issue of it being “too wrong or bad to be spoken of” and it’s weird to see that quoted as if it appeared in anything a mod wrote in a deletion reason.

What the article is is pretty difficult, on a collection of subjects that have been hard for the community to navigate in a way that isn’t sometimes hugely hurtful and alienating to a lot of in particular our trans community members.

It’s a charged, very personal take (one the author’s noted after the fact she didn’t intend to be anywhere near as public or taken-as-general as its turned out to be) and while I think it’s an interesting read I also think that it would make for exactly the kind of ugly, no-win “let’s use this trans person as a proxy for an argument and some hot, hot takes” mess that we have heard repeatedly from a lot of folks on the site that they just can’t deal with having to either (a) wade into and do a ton of heavy lifting just to keep folks from saying hurtful shit, whether cluelessly or purposefully, or (b) sit out and watch things go horribly.

We have said several times in MetaTalk that we’re looking harder at making a call early about when and whether to have difficult threads about things like this. That we’re trying harder to find a balance on just saying “this is not worth the mess and hurt it’s going to generate” sometimes instead of waiting for things to go bad and for people to have their month ruined in order to justify taking action that we had already seen as likely to be needed going in.

That goes for trans issues as well as for any number of other difficult subjects, but transness has been an especially zeitgeisty/clickbaity/thinkpiecey subject the last few years and one new enough to enough people that the clumsy-and-hurtful quotient for even random well-meaning conversation is especially high. So it’s one case where the bar is an extra notch or two up on how we’re making these calls.

In this case, this is the call we made: this doesn’t seem like a piece that’s going to lead to good, non-hurtful discussion on the site. It’s a call we re-examined when we saw it come back around a couple times, and one that on re-examination we’re sticking with. It’s okay if some folks disagree with that; it’s not a declaration of absolute merit about either the article or interest in discussing it. But it’s where we’re going on this one as a moderation staff.

If not, I think the undiscussable topics and viewpoints should be explicitly listed.

There is no such list of undiscussable topics and viewpoints; asking for an explicit list is not a workable way to relate to this site and how its culture or moderation works. I’m not saying that to be a jerk, I’m just saying that to be clear: as much as I can sympathize with the idea that explicit rules or boundaries or codification are helpful to some folks, it’s not how we work or how the site works. MetaFilter can’t be all things to all people, and being super carved-in-stone about stuff is one of the things it’s never going to be no matter how much that may be preferable for some folks.

There are some subjects that are more difficult than most. You mention a couple in the post here; in general, stuff that has strong cultural or identity bases, or which tie to issues of prejudice or oppression or the systemic mistreatment of or injustice to whole groups of people, are likely to be harder to talk about than just about anything else.

Those are situations where we are going to look more closely at whether and how to allocate whatever mod and community resources we have at any given moment to a potential trainwreck of a thread. There’s never gonna be a simple yes/no rubric there; it’ll be case-by-case like all things are.

Folks will disagree with the mods there sometimes. That’s okay and I respect that disagreement; actual unanimity on this site is basically unheard of, even if there are some areas of broad general agreement in the user base about site practice. But at the end of the day we’re going to make these calls as best as we’re able based on the feedback we get from community and from our experience hashing these things out over the years.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:32 AM on July 15, 2016 [41 favorites]


This much-deleted post demonstrates an intersection of topics that can create unpleasant, uncivil, or downright hostile and dumb levels of conversation, mostly because, in my experience/opinion, far too many people fail to acknowledge what what Segundus does in their last sentence in this comment: I don't know enough about it to assess how true or relevant that is.
posted by rtha at 10:37 AM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


More explicit guidelines on what makes a good post?

This morning I made a post with a bunch of links, at least two of which had been the sole link in previously deleted posts. This series of articles had been in my mind recently, and I approached making the post with this:

Multiple links.
- More than one link tends to slow down responses. I don't have a solid explanation, but I think it signals to people they actually need to R at least one FA.

Multiple views
- links included the series that kicked off responses, and responses-to-responses. Again, prompting people to RTFA, in order to even know what they are talking about

Other posts on related subjects
- Related subjects included US election and UK referendum on EU membership. With one link, it's easy to fall into the trap of it becoming a discussion about the example that link focuses on, instead of about the deeper, interrelated issues. There are now well established posts on these other issues, allowing space for my post.


Now I turn to the link at the center of this thread.

My attempts today are not requirements for a good post on any subject - but they may be helpful for a good post that incorporates this link.

I've seen intelligent responses to the article on Tumblr and Reddit (yes, even Reddit, on certain subreddits at least), respecting the author and not dismissing them from either end of the ideological spectrum.
I've seen unintelligent responses to this article on Tumblr and Reddit, disrespecting the author and attacking all possible viewpoints from several ideological positions. We know, due to past threads, that these kinds of things will occur on MeFi, and will occur in such a way as to escape notice by both the general public and the moderators.
Can this link be in a post constructed in such a way to prevent this from happening again?

To me the post seemed like the potential start of a discussion
MetaFilter is a place for links that "might warrant discussion"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:51 AM on July 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Burying a problematic link in a multi-link FPP seems one of the WORST ways to start a discussion about a link, or to interact with the userbase in general.
posted by yhbc at 11:08 AM on July 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


As a trans woman who cares a lot about this site, this is exhausting. I am not even going to bother trying to engage with this guideline question you've raised, after typing and erasing something over and over here. I'll continue to follow this, but it's just so, so, so exhausting to have this framing of "debates" about our existence, our transitioning (or not), our politics, ... debates about those debates, and on top of that the near constant impression that it's mostly cis posters or cis commenters talking at or about us. I swear, we've lost more actual trans members than we have had trans threads go well. What's that telling you?
posted by odinsdream at 11:25 AM on July 15, 2016 [76 favorites]


Yeah, I agree 100% that this site doesn't need to entertain gross, hurtful threads just so (cis) people can play devil's advocate, Just Ask Questions, or make sweeping statements about things that don't impact them. They're exhausting and heartbreaking, and they drive marginalized voices away from the site. If you really need to discuss the article, I'm sure there are dozens of places on the internet you can do that. For me, preserving trans voices [and women, and POC, and other minority groups] and preventing harm EASILY trumps someone's need for a Free Speech Zone.
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:40 AM on July 15, 2016 [27 favorites]


The fundamental problem with the article is that it advocates (despite claiming not to) a position that is considered by many affected people to be actively harmful. Of course, that's not a consensus opinion—there is no consensus. But concretely, I know people who have had that piece used as ammunition against them on social media because they chose to transition. That's not something that we should have to push back against here.
posted by WCWedin at 11:42 AM on July 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


> Folks will disagree with the mods there sometimes. That’s okay and I respect that disagreement

That's well said; I disagree with the mods on this one (I think, although of course if it were posted and the discussion turned out to be hellish I would have been wrong), but I too respect that disagreement and care more about the welfare of the mods and the site than my desire to discuss an interesting article with the good folks of MeFi, from whom I have learned so much (and from whom I would expect to get enlightening points of view on this piece).

> Multiple links.
- More than one link tends to slow down responses. I don't have a solid explanation, but I think it signals to people they actually need to R at least one FA.


This, on the other hand, I totally disagree with. I personally find that I am less likely to read the links the more there are, and (as I have said many times) I resent the growing meme that many links = good post. Single-link posts are fine and are part of the great tradition of this site.

In conclusion: please discuss this fraught issue with kindness and an open mind. Everyone needs a hug.
posted by languagehat at 11:45 AM on July 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


> it advocates (despite claiming not to)

If it "claims not to," then it doesn't. This is a nasty way of arguing.
posted by languagehat at 11:46 AM on July 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm kinda iffy on the deletion and the originally stated reason, but then again it's not my life being discussed. I do think either a more detailed reason and/or mod notes would have been helpful here.

What is concerning is basically shutting the whole thing down because assholes gonna asshole. I mean isn't that what the mod tools are for? If you know certain people are going to wellactually or JAQ off or otherwise play games, or just straight-up be transphobic, it seems that proactive measures that focus on them rather than the rest of the userbase would work better.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:47 AM on July 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


(this is a good thread)
posted by Going To Maine at 11:52 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you know certain people are going to wellactually or JAQ off or otherwise play games, or just straight-up be transphobic, it seems that proactive measures that focus on them rather than the rest of the userbase would work better.

I've always advocated for quicker timeouts / bans for the reasons you mention, but given the large number of posters that engage in this kind of behavior, and given that it's not always the same handful of people, I can imagine some folks, especially those directly effected by these issues, may not feel that any harm that's done prior to the mod intervetion -- even if that intervention is immediate -- is worth whatever upside there may be to letting these posts go.

This is not an easy equation to evaluate, but when the downside is losing community members, my instinct is to err on the side of caution.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:56 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do think either a more detailed reason and/or mod notes would have been helpful here.

Agreed.

I know people who have had that piece used as ammunition against them on social media because they chose to transition.


That's absolutely awful. Is that why the FPP was deleted -- it was perceived to be an anti-transition article? (Which was not at all obvious to me, at least -- and I suppose not obvious to many others, since the article was posted multiple times.)

Identifying the specific reasons that made this piece unsuitable for metafilter would lead to better guidelines for future FPPs, particularly on potentially hurtful issues.
posted by phoenix_rising at 11:58 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


What is concerning is basically shutting the whole thing down because assholes gonna asshole. I mean isn't that what the mod tools are for? If you know certain people are going to wellactually or JAQ off or otherwise play games, or just straight-up be transphobic, it seems that proactive measures that focus on them rather than the rest of the userbase would work better.

I agree with this in principle. On the other hand, a trans mefite in this thread said that the article the post is based on "advocates a position that is considered by many affected people to be actively harmful." I don't think the principle of keeping it on the front page is worth the potential harm it could conceivably cause.
posted by zarq at 11:59 AM on July 15, 2016 [15 favorites]


it was perceived to be an anti-transition article?

It's explicitly an anti-transition article.
posted by odinsdream at 12:00 PM on July 15, 2016 [22 favorites]


What is concerning is basically shutting the whole thing down because assholes gonna asshole

Assholes, and also perfectly well meaning people who enjoy having long and sometimes ignorant discussions with one another about trans people, during which trans people regularly not only shut down but leave the site and don't come back.

That kind of shutting down is more concerning to me.
posted by emilyw at 12:01 PM on July 15, 2016 [24 favorites]


If it "claims not to," then it doesn't. This is a nasty way of arguing.

A good quarter of the article is the author painting trans women as vain, self-hating misandrists trying to outcompete each other for conformity to some kind of trans zeitgeist. It's blatant transmisogyny. Adding a note to say, "but you can totally join that club if you want" doesn't do anything to mitigate that.
posted by WCWedin at 12:02 PM on July 15, 2016 [33 favorites]


I appreciate the difficulty of routing around the article's specifics when it's what instigated this question of deletion, so no harm no foul here so far. But again I want to emphasize that we really need for this to not slide sideways into being an argument about the article, or an argument about arguments about the article, etc.

What is concerning is basically shutting the whole thing down because assholes gonna asshole. I mean isn't that what the mod tools are for?

We have a pretty good toolset as mods go, and cracking down on various stripes of known-assholism has been part of what we've been doing the last couple years in particular. But those tools have their limitations, need to be wielded by human mods in real time, and the whole of what's hard about these threads can very much not be summed up by "assholes gonna asshole". It would be a lot simpler if that were so.

If you know certain people are going to wellactually and JAQ off or otherwise play games, or just straight-up be transphobic, it seems that proactive measures that focus on them rather than the rest of the userbase would work better.

As I said in my first comment, one of the difficulties here is that it's not just an issue of some small handful of known bad actors acting predictably badly. We've been banning or topic-banning folks for repeated bad behavior of various kinds, something we've talked about in MetaTalk a fair amount the last couple years, and it's something we continue to take seriously as worth being more proactive about.

But you set aside the easy idea of "well, just get rid of the jerks" and you're left with everybody else. The people who aren't career jerks, who aren't known assholes, who can't be preventatively corralled out of taking a thread in a shitty direction because there's zero reason to assume that they will.

Because what a whole lot of folks are is well-meaning community members engaging on a difficult topic in good faith but clumsily, or naively, or from what in a chill context would be a shrug-worthy level of disagreement but for very difficult topics can be pretty genuinely hurtful and escalatory.

Some topics, as I talked about above, carry this kind of weight of difficulty to a degree that most don't. That it is so difficult, even under ideal circumstances, to just guarantee a thread won't go bad or ugly, is why we are going to sometimes choose to preemptively say no, let's not do this for some posts. That's not instead of using the mod tools; that is one of the mod tools.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:03 PM on July 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


What is concerning is basically shutting the whole thing down because assholes gonna asshole. I mean isn't that what the mod tools are for? If you know certain people are going to wellactually or JAQ off or otherwise play games, or just straight-up be transphobic, it seems that proactive measures that focus on them rather than the rest of the userbase would work better.

We don't, quite frankly, have enough mods for this, and I honestly do look askance at some of them as to their abilities on certain topics.

I am perfectly okay with shutting the whole thing down because enough assholes will asshole, and enough people, and not always the same ones, are going to go to wells and jaq off and devil's advocate and favorite hostile shit and gaslight and at the end of the day, fuck it, why bother talking at all?
posted by qcubed at 12:03 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


I just want to chime in as someone who feels the mod decision was good, the deletion reason was good, and not waiting until the thread already got bad was good. (I identify as genderqueer/nonbinary.)
posted by capricorn at 12:04 PM on July 15, 2016 [23 favorites]


I would really, really, really like to have a website that doesn't straight-up sacrifice its trans members for the opportunity to more, uh, freely discuss trans issues. And that's what it looks like has been happening for a long time now.

I don't have any answers or suggestions. I just want my goddamn friends to stick around.
posted by griphus at 12:05 PM on July 15, 2016 [85 favorites]


(And please delete this comment if it is edging into the "rehashing the deleted post" category but I am also a person who has chosen not to transition physically or socially and that is really, deeply not the article I want to use to talk about that topic.)
posted by capricorn at 12:06 PM on July 15, 2016 [27 favorites]


griphus; the sentiment you're expressing is exactly why I continue to stick around here, even after the constant fits that cis people throw about freeze peach.
posted by odinsdream at 12:07 PM on July 15, 2016 [38 favorites]


If it "claims not to," then it doesn't. This is a nasty way of arguing.

In Act 3, Antony says more than once "Brutus is an honorable man." And yet.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:12 PM on July 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


> even after the constant fits that cis people throw about freeze peach.

It would be really great if you didn't use this kind of nasty rhetoric. I realize trans people are constantly shat on, rhetorically and otherwise, and I realize it's very human to kick somebody else when you've been kicked, but it also produces discussions that are a lot more difficult than they need to be.
posted by languagehat at 12:13 PM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


I realize trans people are constantly shat on, rhetorically and otherwise, and I realize it's very human to kick somebody else when you've been kicked, but it also produces discussions that are a lot more difficult than they need to be.

Why do you expect marginalized people to always be saints?

Your demand that they be perfectly respectable makes things a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
posted by qcubed at 12:16 PM on July 15, 2016 [38 favorites]


but I am also a person who has chosen not to transition physically or socially and that is really, deeply not the article I want to use to talk about that topic

+1 for me too.
posted by nadawi at 12:16 PM on July 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


If you have an alternative explanation for cis members constantly arguing for their right to debate trans members after being explicitly told that it directly causes the site's trans members to shut down their accounts or disengage, please offer it.
posted by odinsdream at 12:17 PM on July 15, 2016 [28 favorites]


> Why do you expect marginalized people to always be saints?

I don't.

> Your demand that they be perfectly respectable makes things a lot more difficult than it needs to be.

I demanded nothing.
posted by languagehat at 12:17 PM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


pointing out that cis people get pretty damn aggressive about their right to thought exercise the discussions about trans people's lives is not nasty rhetoric.
posted by nadawi at 12:18 PM on July 15, 2016 [35 favorites]


I don't.
I demanded nothing.

This is what you wrote:

It would be really great if you didn't use this kind of nasty rhetoric. I realize trans people are constantly shat on, rhetorically and otherwise, and I realize it's very human to kick somebody else when you've been kicked, but it also produces discussions that are a lot more difficult than they need to be.

You're asking people who are constantly marginalized to not push back.

You told one of those marginalized people they were using 'nasty rhetoric' and leading to conditions that produce more 'difficult' discussions.

If you want to stick to your denials, go right ahead, but your words are proof.
posted by qcubed at 12:19 PM on July 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


Multiple links.
- More than one link tends to slow down responses. I don't have a solid explanation, but I think it signals to people they actually need to R at least one FA.


I mostly agree with languagehat here -- once you get above 2-3 significant links (as opposed to examples or explanatory stuff), I become much less likely to read any of it. I do think that tough issues could usually use more development, though, than, say, a kitten wrestling an owl.

I also agree with griphus -- I am really tired of seeing trans members leave over behavior that has maybe gotten less shitty (we're not outright misgendering people as rule anymore), but is still clearly really grinding. I also want to see our trans members able to participate as members first -- not as spokespeople for a particular marginalized population but for all the other cool stuff/knowledge/trivia/experience they bring to the table as well.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:20 PM on July 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


I was disappointed that this article was deleted - after seeing it linked elsewhere I read it (and the comments that followed) & found it to be a powerful piece of writing.

None of the things specialagentwebb complains of above were happening in the comments to that article, unless there was crap that’s been deleted. On the contrary they were empathetic & supportive, even the ones that disagreed with aspects of the article in fundamental ways.

If MeFi is a place where a trans lived experience that’s outside the dominant trans narrative is forbidden from discussion because it’s just too much of a hot button issue for all concerned then so be it but, as Rangi says, that seems like the sort of thing that needs spelling out because it’s not going to be obvious to most occasional posters.
posted by pharm at 12:21 PM on July 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


> pointing out that cis people get pretty damn aggressive about their right to thought exercise the discussions about trans people's lives is not nasty rhetoric.

If people talked about trans people that way you'd say it was. And no, I'm not equating cis people and trans people, I'm saying nasty rhetoric is nasty rhetoric and it doesn't help the discussion.

> You're asking people who are constantly marginalized to not push back.

Asking is not demanding. You seem to be interpreting anything other than total agreement, the use of the exact words and phrases that you would use, as bullying or transphobia or whatever. That is not helpful.
posted by languagehat at 12:23 PM on July 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


...but for all the other cool stuff/knowledge/trivia/experience they bring to the table as well.

I really appreciate you saying this. It made me realize that I've almost primarily been engaging with MeFi as "a trans member" first, and "a member" second. Justifiably, I think. But yeah, I'd just love to get to a point when it's possible for me to post things about chip design and computer history and cooking and shit, instead.
posted by odinsdream at 12:23 PM on July 15, 2016 [26 favorites]


I don't think odinsdream's comment was "nasty rhetoric" -- it was forceful and curt, but we have seen a lot of armchair theorizing about trans people by cis people on the Blue and Grey (maybe less now than 3 or so years ago, but still), and I don't think a trans person saying the acceptable amount is "none" (which is how I read that comment) is particularly notable.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:25 PM on July 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


Hard discussions are hard and people get pretty understandable fatigue about trying to be nice in the face of having put up with the same shit over and over again. I don't think anybody here is likely to disagree with that.

I think that fatigue leads to kinda scrappy shorthand sometimes, and that is unfortunately not great for conversation either even if the context driving it is pretty seriously understandable. But I also think there's value in recognizing that context and trying to move past or engage sympathetically with that when it happens.

If we can step back a bit and not shift from the policy question here to an argument about rhetoric that's coming from two somewhat orthogonal directions and is unlikely to go well, I think that would be a good outcome.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:25 PM on July 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


context matters when determining if the rhetoric is nasty, especially since some of the freewheeling fights cis people have pushed here is whether or not cis is a slur (it's not) and whether or not mefites who are trans are too mean (they're not).
posted by nadawi at 12:26 PM on July 15, 2016 [28 favorites]


I also want to see our trans members able to participate as members first -- not as spokespeople for a particular marginalized population but for all the other cool stuff/knowledge/trivia/experience they bring to the table as well.

Is there a requirement that [people of marginalized group] participate in every thread that covers issues related to [marginalized group]?

If so, we probably all have some backlog to work through.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:28 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I did put a well-meaning but ultimately ill-considered comment in near the beginning of that thread (it seemed to call for more of a trans-101 talk than I intended). I am sorry I added more contention to an already contentious discussion and apologize for that.
posted by zachlipton at 12:29 PM on July 15, 2016


sparklemotion: Of course not & no-one should expect that of anyone. I hope you were just being facetious !
posted by pharm at 12:31 PM on July 15, 2016


It would be really great if you didn't use this kind of nasty rhetoric. I realize trans people are constantly shat on, rhetorically and otherwise, and I realize it's very human to kick somebody else when you've been kicked, but it also produces discussions that are a lot more difficult than they need to be.

I used to make this argument in metatalk somewhat often. I think most of us do prefer it when people try to speak more kindly to each other and don't paint entire groups of people with the same brush. It's grating, and I am convinced it provokes unnecessary defensive reactions. I prefer it when people are nicer to each other. Even if I myself can be a bit abrasive sometimes. Something I'm working on.

But I don't make that argument any more to members of marginalized groups unless they are making a personal attack or saying something that is blatantly untrue. Because tone arguments are often used by concern trolls to derail discussions, by suggesting that a minority group, be they trans folks or feminists or African Americans, etc., would be more successful if only they were to express themselves more politely, or in a more pleasant tone. When I make that argument, I'm punching down from privilege and preventing dialogue from happening.

And I don't want to be that guy.

languagehat, I respect the hell out of you. I really do. We're of like minds on a lot of topics. But if members of an oppressed and marginalized minority group who endure a constant and unending stream of hatred on a regular basis are expressing their anger I think it behooves us not to be that guy.

It's okay. Our egos can take it. ;)
posted by zarq at 12:32 PM on July 15, 2016 [41 favorites]


If MeFi is a place where a trans lived experience that’s outside the dominant trans narrative is forbidden from discussion because it’s just too much of a hot button issue for all concerned then so be it but, as Rangi says, that seems like the sort of thing that needs spelling out because it’s not going to be obvious to most occasional posters.

Honestly I think everyone in this thread needs to just trust the mods and all the trans/nonbinary people in this thread saying it's not about any explicit rules or specifics that you can create policy around to prevent it from getting posted in the first place (and the trans/nb people in this thread saying that it has nothing to do with the article being "outside the dominant narrative"). No guidelines were violated, no one was an asshole. But it would have been a bad thread. This thread is already becoming a bad thread for me. I understand why it needed to be let through the queue since the link was posted 4(!!) times but I kind of wish it wasn't.
posted by capricorn at 12:33 PM on July 15, 2016 [25 favorites]


Is there a requirement that [people of marginalized group] participate in every thread that covers issues related to [marginalized group]?

Yes. In order to avoid letting the narrative culture go to complete shit, trans people (since that's what we're talking about, but this applies to POC and other groups as well, c.f. yoga appropriation, dolezal) need to step in and call out commentary that is damaging.
posted by odinsdream at 12:34 PM on July 15, 2016 [18 favorites]


If we can step back a bit and not shift from the policy question here

So, shifting the conversation back toward policy, how could we (or should we) adjust posting guidelines to prevent this sort of thing from happening?
posted by phoenix_rising at 12:34 PM on July 15, 2016


...and as for the backlog, you really, really don't want to go read old mefi threads about this stuff. Or, ya know, maybe you do for illustrative purposes, to see what it looks like when a dominant culture of oppressive behaviour is unchecked.
posted by odinsdream at 12:35 PM on July 15, 2016 [18 favorites]


posted 4(!!) times

5 I think.
posted by pharm at 12:36 PM on July 15, 2016


If people talked about trans people that way you'd say it was. And no, I'm not equating cis people and trans people, I'm saying nasty rhetoric is nasty rhetoric and it doesn't help the discussion.

This is quite literally the tone argument here. I think it's inherently problematic when a person not in the marginalized group complains about the reactions of those in the marginalized group causing them discomfort, causing unpleasantness and nastiness.

I'm sorry you're uncomfortable with a trans person saying cis people flip their shit over 'freeze peaches'. You seem to be under the impression, though, that this is the crime, when the bigger issue is the one you gloss over--that of the constant stream of nastiness sent in the direction of trans people, the constant discussions of trans people without trans people, and then the fragility when cis people are called out for holding some toxic, reductive views.
posted by qcubed at 12:38 PM on July 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


> If people talked about trans people that way you'd say it was.

There's no "if" here - many threads have gone this way here. And while the "freeze peach" thing might be kinda flippant, I also disagree that it's nasty rhetoric. We've had threads where cis people have explicitly and deliberately argued for misgendering trans* people and have explicitly argued that being able to make comments without filtering them is more valuable than considering who is reading and listening and right there in the room. It's not "if" but "when" and it's really tiresome, and is exactly the kind of "echo chamber" that seems totally invisible to people who often complain that MeFi has become an echo chamber.
posted by rtha at 12:39 PM on July 15, 2016 [33 favorites]


how could we (or should we) adjust posting guidelines to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

Honestly, I don't think the guidelines need to be adjusted. Sometimes there are particular threads that the mods recognize will just Not Go Well. They're outliers, and kind of nebulous to identify, and apart from some very distinctive hot-button issues, you can't really make a hard and fast rule about it. So sometimes things will get posted, and sometimes those things will be deleted if a mod makes that call. It's not a huge deal, IMO.

Having a post deleted is not a personal judgment. It's just a thing that happens.
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:39 PM on July 15, 2016 [22 favorites]


(and by that, I mean "it's not a personal judgment on the poster")
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:40 PM on July 15, 2016


> languagehat, I respect the hell out of you. I really do. We're of like minds on a lot of topics. But if members of an oppressed and marginalized minority group who endure a constant and unending stream of hatred on a regular basis are expressing their anger I think it behooves us not to be that guy.

It's okay. Our egos can take it. ;)


I respect the hell out of you too, and I agree with you, and yeah, my ego can take it. But if we've come to the point where simply pointing out that civility is better for discussion than the reverse is seen as unacceptable, well, that's a hell of a point to come to. And saying "whether or not mefites who are trans are too mean (they're not)" seems to imply it is literally impossible for a trans MeFite to be too mean, which, well, I don't know what to say.

> I'm sorry you're uncomfortable with a trans person saying cis people flip their shit over 'freeze peaches'. You seem to be under the impression, though, that this is the crime, when the bigger issue is the one you gloss over

See, this is what I mean. I am certainly not "under the impression that this is the crime," and no reasonable person could think so. If it needs saying, I am deeply upset over the way trans people have been treated and in favor of anything that makes their lives easier. I am not "glossing over" anything. I am saying that civility is better for discussion than the reverse. To simply assume that what I say comes from a place of bigotry and indifference is unhelpful. Having said that, I will withdraw from this discussion, since my participation is making people uncomfortable. But I continue to believe what I believe.
posted by languagehat at 12:42 PM on July 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


So, shifting the conversation back toward policy, how could we (or should we) adjust posting guidelines to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

What do you mean by "this sort of thing"? From what I can see here, FPPs were posted and deleted. That happens multiple times everyday, and it's just part of how the site works. Yeah, it sucks to have a post deleted, but the mods are usually pretty good about giving longer explanations as to why (when their quick deletion reasons don't fully explain things).

Yes. In order to avoid letting the narrative culture go to complete shit, trans people (since that's what we're talking about, but this applies to POC and other groups as well, c.f. yoga appropriation, dolezal) need to step in and call out commentary that is damaging.

I hope I didn't offend by expanding to other groups (which I did because I can't speak to what trans people do or do not need to do), but my identity as, say, a black woman, doesn't create an obligation to me to step in on topics where I know the conversation won't be helpful for me.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:44 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


seems to imply it is literally impossible for a trans MeFite to be too mean, which, well, I don't know what to say.

oh come now, you of all people are better at language parsing than that.
posted by nadawi at 12:44 PM on July 15, 2016 [24 favorites]


As to that article, I saw one (maybe 2?) of the threads, and they weren't going very well, as I recall, when they were closed.

And, while I don't think that every MeFite in [marginalized group] has to participate in every thread on [marginalized group], it's pretty obvious that a lot of members do, probably because they find their own identities interesting and they have opinions and experiences that relate, and, when a thread becomes a serious shitshow it's really hard on those members who have exposed and gambled a core element of identity in the process. Reducing that problem where possible and taking some pressure off seems like a good idea to me.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:45 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]




I apologize in advance if this comes off as discussing the specifics of the article, or if it comes off as more exclusive than I intend it, but I wonder if the original stated reasons for the deletion of the multiple posts are less clear to cisgender people than they are to trans people, and specifically, closeted trans women for whom the article reads like a horrific living nightmare?

Like, it's perfectly fine for cis people to want to educate themselves on the issues the article discusses, and the trans experience in general, but is a Metafilter FPP the place to keep doing that over and over again? Like... I dunno, it's not that people can't discuss it, it's that Mefi has such a history of articles like this (by which I mean articles about trans people's experiences in general) leading to discussions that center around people who are most likely cis fumbling their way towards dawning understanding of why that very public fumbling can be so hurtful?

Also, I strongly agree with cortex and capricorn that mods totally do not need to wait until threads begin to go downhill to make the deletion judgement call, because the thing is, comments don't await moderation before getting posted or anything. They just go up and get deleted if a moderator catches it or someone flags it for them. The comment will be gone for future readers, sure, but like cortex said someone's whole freaking month can be ruined by them in the meantime. Also constantly struggling to catch them for the duration of the thread has got to be exhausting to the mods. On that note and circling back to the actual topic of this discussion, I should thank the mods for everything they do keeping the environment on Mefi civil, and I'm really really glad our trans community here is so great.
posted by elsilnora at 12:47 PM on July 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


Honestly, I don't think the guidelines need to be adjusted. Sometimes there are particular threads that the mods recognize will just Not Go Well.

Amen to this. I've noticed fewer demands for "detailed and clear guidelines" over the past 5 years, but I think it need to be repeated every so often -- this is a social site; there will never be a perfect set of guidelines which will neatly separate "bad comments/FPPs" from "ok comments/FPPs." It just isn't possible. There are always going to be judgement calls from the mods (aided by flags and contact forms), and that's a feature, not a bug.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:52 PM on July 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


But if we've come to the point where simply pointing out that civility is better for discussion than the reverse is seen as unacceptable, well, that's a hell of a point to come to.

We've been at this point for a very, very long time. It's, I don't know, maybe unpleasant to reckon but those are the breaks. Pointing out that civility is more conducive for discussion is infuriating people because it's guaranteed to happen eventually in a conversation, Godwin's Law-style, and it's no more a useful suggestion of behavior for people who have to deal with systematic oppression than pointing out how Hitler-y someone is to defame them.

It's trite and downright insulting to assume the people you're speaking with don't damn well know everyone around them wants them to simmer down because they're making things unpleasant. If you want my opinion on how to help, don't make "simmer down now" the chorus you lend your voice to.
posted by griphus at 12:53 PM on July 15, 2016 [47 favorites]


welp, if I wasn't sure about it being a good deletion before, this thread has confirmed in a pretty big way that this was not a thread that cis people on mefi would've been able to comport ourselves well in
posted by Krom Tatman at 12:53 PM on July 15, 2016 [42 favorites]


sparklemotion: I guess the 'sort of thing' is having the same article posted 5 times in succession? It suggests there’s a disconnect between the average member’s expectations of what makes for a good post & the mod / site view.

Genji: IIRC the bit that 'wasn’t going well' in the comments themselves wasn’t so much the trans-related parts ironically.

elsinora: Trans issues have come to the fore in recent years. No discussion of them at all seems unrealistic?

Krom: the original post was going *better* than this. By a wide margin unless the mods were deleting half the comments.
posted by pharm at 12:55 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Reducing [the problem of (in this case) trans people having to wade through nonsense because they participated in who participate in trans related threads that turn into shitshows] where possible and taking some pressure off seems like a good idea to me.

I agree with this. What I originally disagreed with is the notion that [marginalized members] are unable to participate as just members, without being forced to also be spokespeople. Because, for me, that's one of the things that I love about MeFi, is that I don't have to be [identities] here if I don't want.

I think that this was a good deletion, but I don't think that an FPP about X is a demand for X people to show up and educate (even though it is fine and great when they do).
posted by sparklemotion at 12:57 PM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


So, shifting the conversation back toward policy, how could we (or should we) adjust posting guidelines to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

I'm not sure there's an obvious adjustment to be made; I talked a lot about the reasoning for making a "let's give this one a miss" call on this one in my first comment above, and one of the key things there is that this is a case-by-case analysis thing, not something where there was a simple bright-line rubric that just hadn't been written down anywhere.

If you want some more general thoughts on some of this posting choice stuff: there's a difference between something being worth discussing in the larger sense that finding the right set and setting to talk about it is a worthwhile idea (there's plenty in the article I could discuss, and have a bit, with close friends where I know we're all in a reasonable agreement about discussion boundaries and comfort and so on) and the idea that something is likely to go well in a large mixed group without any such clear, intimate set of shared boundaries. That difference is very real; it's not a judgement of the topic or its worth, just a practical thing.

And that means there is stuff I wouldn't ever choose to post on MetaFilter, even though I know there are MeFites with whom I would enjoy (or if not "enjoy" exactly depending on the context, at least get value out of) discussing it. Just as there are all kinds of other discussions online and off that'd I'd partition out to some groups and settings and not to others. I think context matters a ton for difficult discussions, and as much as I love MetaFilter and can understand some folks' feeling that MetaFilter should be an Anything Goes, Topically Speaking sort of space, I don't think an open thread on MeFi is always the best context for everything.

A thing that Jessamyn brought up a few times over the years in MetaTalk when talking about posting choices generally is the idea of a poster asking themself a pretty key question: "what do I want out of this post?"

And it seems like sort of an obvious low-hanging-fruit question in a way, but I think it's an important one and that there's a ton of value in really, really looking at that when choosing to post something. Because there's some stuff that it's really reasonable and workable to want out of making a post on MetaFilter, and some stuff that is not so much.

And one of the big things there in my eyes is figuring out if what you want from a post is for people to have a shared negative response to something. Because that seems almost never to be good footing for a post, and yet it does often seem like part of the motivation for posts, and correlates roughly to the kind of posts that go poorly.

I'm speaking generally there; I don't know what specifically anyone who chose to post in this case was feeling and the article is a complicated enough series of thoughts that different posters may have been coming from distinctly different places.

But all of the above doesn't really fit into the guidelines as something new; it's all to an extent just a reiteration of the basic idea that the core idea of MetaFilter is sharing interesting things online. And the mix of what gets posted on the front page certainly includes stuff that's more on the difficult read or bad news side of things, and I think that's okay in moderation if not really what I come here for 99% of the time. But as a personal feeling, I think the site wouldn't be worse off if people were a little bit slower on average to proceed from "this made me feel [negative emotion x]" to "I should put this on MetaFilter". That figuring out whether the part of one's internal motivation for the post is to transfer or duplicate that negative emotion in others, and if so whether and why that's a good choice, and further how that's going to affect the other people on the site, especially in the context of however that negative stuff hits home for them.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:59 PM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


It's a powerful piece of writing with a lot of problems that make it difficult to discuss even in the trans-dominant spaces I've seen it in. This was a good deletion.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:01 PM on July 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


it just makes sense to me that some personal essays (or slyt or newsfilter or toast post [rip] or meme round up) won't clear the bar for posting for a wide range of reasons and there doesn't really need to be refined guidelines to nail down all those reasons.
posted by nadawi at 1:03 PM on July 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm also not sure there's some sort of guideline that can be promulgated out of the repeated deletion of this piece. Or what nadawi just said.

I do agree with this deletion because all things do not have a place at Metafilter--for a variety of reasons, one of which is "the content here has a very high potential to create hateful or hurtful commentary and we don't have the moderation resources to combat it and we do not have the community history of preventing it amongst ourselves." I think this reason probably extends to other things which may or may not be deleted here and I think that's okay.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:06 PM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


pharm: Well I certainly don't mean we should never discuss trans issues on MeFi and I apologize if I came off sounding like that. What I was referring to is discussions and FPPs about very contentious articles like this one, which some members of the community and the mods recognize early on are going to lead to conversation that will be very, very difficult for the people the article is about.

And yeah, I get that the article is really supposed to be about this one person, and not read onto every trans woman, but the fact that so many people are going to do just that is a problem with the article that I don't think MeFi's trans community needs to deal with.
posted by elsilnora at 1:08 PM on July 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


"the content here has a very high potential to create hateful or hurtful commentary and we don't have the moderation resources to combat it and we do not have the community history of preventing it amongst ourselves."

I'm not going to comment on the deletion itself, but I think this is something to keep in mind just generally. I watched this essay drop like a bomb into communities/spaces that are well, well past 101-level discussion of gender issues, where "not knowing how to talk about it" isn't nearly as big a problem as it is here, and where no one has to build anything up or argue from first principles.

When that kind of incendiary thing happens in that kind of space, it's different than when it happens here. There's still arguments, hurtful words, whatever. But those arguments are between, essentially, rough peers. When it happens in a space, like ours, that on a general basis is only just barely flopping itself onto the shore out of ignorance, it stands a much bigger chance of keeping the barely-interested-if-only-to-argue people arguing and alienating the people it ostensibly exists to support in some way.

When trans issues -- and many, many other issues involving the desire of some people to just exist without causing controversy -- are concerned, we are not all peers here. We do not all have the same rough level of experience, or knowledge. We're not going to be able to suss out the issues in a way a space of peers can, or if we are, we're going to do it at the cost of having to deal with derails and JAQing and etc. etc. And the cost of having to deal with that is trans people burning out.

There's real community costs to I Demand To Discuss This that are often opaque to the very people arguing for that. But they're real and our community has paid them time and time again, and probably will continue to.
posted by griphus at 1:16 PM on July 15, 2016 [58 favorites]


Because what a whole lot of folks are is well-meaning community members engaging on a difficult topic in good faith but clumsily, or naively, or from what in a chill context would be a shrug-worthy level of disagreement but for very difficult topics can be pretty genuinely hurtful and escalatory.

one year ago (minus about two hours), I posted a comment about what kind of approach indicates good-faith question-asking, because I think generally Mefites are receptive and kind to people who are engaging in good faith on difficult topics, even when there's some cluelessness afoot. And yes, even well-meaning cluelessness can be a bit wearying at times--but I think that when people are engaging in genuine good faith, the cluelessness-per-thread ratio stays at a tolerably low level, because you don't have variations on the same question with minor what-if tweaks, and because there is the sense that people are listening and learning and that you're not just shouting into the void. I think that it's worth discussing what we as commenters, mods, and community can do to keep clumsiness or naivete from becoming toxic (or giving cover to bad faith masquerading as cluelessness.)

The one amendment I'd make to that comment now is that good faith questioning includes (d) being okay with some disagreement or uncertainty in the responses; the bad faith version of this takes the form of saying "well, but if trans person number 1 said this and trans person number 2 said that, I'm just going to choose whichever I feel like" (alternatively: "I'm going to act like neither of them are believable if they can't agree.) I think it's well-meaning, to some degree, to want a "protocol" for how to think about or talk about an issue, especially when it's about oppression and you're trying to be an ally from a position of privilege, but it can be stifling to feel like, for example, my saying that I don't think a specific thing is an example of cultural appropriation is going to be used by white commenters to shout down other POC who do think it's an example of such. This is far far more likely to keep me from expressing disagreement on the topic than being disagreed with by other POC.

(I'm already having some regret about my earlier phrasing of "would've been able to comport ourselves in", because of course cis people are capable of not dragging this shit down into the mud; we make choices to do so, even if we have "good reasons" for those choices.)
posted by Krom Tatman at 1:20 PM on July 15, 2016 [16 favorites]


What do you mean by "this sort of thing"?

I meant trans* people (or other marginalized groups) getting hurt. I'm not at all arguing that the FPP shouldn't have been deleted. It sounds like it was a good deletion, given that it was hurting trans* people. However, I doubt that the 4 or 5 people who tried to post the FPP were deliberately trying to hurt anyone. (If you were, shame on you.) Knowing the reason for the deletion (for example, that it was an anti-transition piece) is helpful so that people can avoid posting things like this in the future.

As cortex points out, some issues are complex and nuanced such that it's hard to form guidelines around them. But it seems that this article was arguing a point of view that many trans* members found objectionable that the cis crowd maybe didn't get. So a guideline like "don't post things that have X point of view" (where X = something that is known to be hurtful to a marginalized group) might help with this. But, yeah, stuff is complicated, people often don't realize what will be hurtful, and it's hard to make bright line distinctions like this.

We do not all have the same rough level of experience, or knowledge.


Exactly, and hence we get problems like this. It seems really hard to fix.
posted by phoenix_rising at 1:22 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


When it happens in a space, like ours, that on a general basis is only just barely flopping itself onto the shore out of ignorance, it stands a much bigger chance of keeping the barely-interested-if-only-to-argue people arguing and alienating the people it ostensibly exists to support in some way.


i think all of my initial feelings about this being a bad deletion (which have now dissipated) were based on having forgotten that this is a v. accurate description of metafilter.
posted by beerperson at 1:25 PM on July 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


phoenix_rising, the fact that the article was posted wasn't inherently hurtful, and did not need to be prevented. The discussion that would have happened would have been, and did need to be prevented. I feel that because the post was deleted, the hurt was avoided, and the system works.
posted by capricorn at 1:32 PM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


Although I guess there's a disclaimer there that I'm just generalizing based on my own experiences.
posted by capricorn at 1:34 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


the fact that the article was posted wasn't inherently hurtful, and did not need to be prevented. The discussion that would have happened would have been, and did need to be prevented. I feel that because the post was deleted, the hurt was avoided, and the system works.

I hear what you're saying. I don't know whether hurt was completely avoided (just seeing the article may have been hurtful for some people, I don't know) and preventing it from being posted in the first place would have probably saved the mods some headaches, but I guess it all turned out ok in the end. Given that certain things are almost certainly going to lead to hurtful discussions, seems like it would make the mods' lives easier to squelch things right out of the gate, but maybe this article was kind of borderline and they weren't sure at first how the discussion would go. The system sort of works. :)
posted by phoenix_rising at 1:43 PM on July 15, 2016


I kind of thought metafilter *had* got to the point where basic civility on these posts could reasonably be expected: Don’t misgender people, respect their choices, for gods sake don’t get all worked up about cis/trans prefixes, all that stuff. Am I horribly wrong?
posted by pharm at 1:43 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think I would like to have some discussion about splash damage and the harm it does, anger and expressing pain, navigating privilege when ones felt sense is different from how one is perceived, and the ever present balance of intent and effect, but Whooooboy. Good deletion.

Have I mentioned lately I love you all?
posted by Deoridhe at 1:44 PM on July 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


"transition" is such a loaded word. It's why I use "alignment" instead.

The word "transition" begs on cis people to gape at it, and comment on it, and wonder about it, critique it.

I am tired of seeing trans women having to defend, deny, justify, explain, teach and argue not only cis people, but feminists, other trans people, social justice activists, but family members, coworkers, politicians and friends their decision to transition or not to transition.

I would like metafilter to examine itself and maybe take up a higher calling to stop caring so much about the "transition" part of being trans and the particulars of why or why not it should or should not happen and how or how not it should be done. Those things are *private* matters.

And if you all read the latest version of the article, the author of the article did not even intend for this to go viral. Maybe we could respect that?

I guess if I could bring the frame out a little more:

In my opinion extremely personal, heartfelt (and potentially problematic) posts that were never intended for a global audience are not good material for Mefi FPP's.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:44 PM on July 15, 2016 [38 favorites]


I kind of thought metafilter *had* got to the point where basic civility on these posts could reasonably be expected

I think for articles that are more neutral in their content—posts about some trans-related issue in some capacity but not with a deeply charged or let's-have-a-fight-about-it sort of vibe—that's something that's more workable. And certainly we have had threads that have gone pretty well in that sense, and I hope to see that become more consistently the case as time goes by.

But even those threads have the capacity to go way sideways; we do what we can from the mod side but it can still be a slog and a mess. Finding the balance there is hard.

And one of the points repeatedly made there and that I've been trying hard for a while to take to heart, on trans issues and a number of other things, is that the capacity of someone outside the affected group to really clearly gauge what "going well" looks like often falls far short of what folks with skin in the game see and experience. My definition of a trans thread going well is almost certainly going to differ from that of a trans person, which is part of why, see above, I'm personally very unlikely to read even a thought-provoking piece about trans issues and think "this should definitely go on MetaFilter and I, of all people, should be the person to post it".
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:51 PM on July 15, 2016 [20 favorites]


Can you point to me where the fight over trans issues was in the original post? Because I’m just not seeing it cortex. Either I’m dumb, or it was deleted, or there’s something I’m not seeing (which is totally possible).

There /was/ the beginnings of a tussle over the #notallmen interpretation (which was something I would have like to have seen people’s opinions on) but even that wasn’t some kind of huge fight, at least not in-thread.

I get that this article has been used as a stick to beat trans people with elsewhere, and that might be a good reason for deletion, but if so can you be explicit about it?
posted by pharm at 2:25 PM on July 15, 2016


Can you point to me where the fight over trans issues was in the original post?

We didn't wait for a fight to break out. I didn't think this was unclear.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:27 PM on July 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm glad I saw the link before the posts were deleted, but I very much agree that this isn't the kind of article that we can have a good discussion about here without losing members of the community. From my perspective as someone who is AMAB and I guess mostly cisgendered, I find that I have a lot of frustrations of my own that aren't that dissimilar to some of the issues talked about in the article, and it's sort of reassuring to me that I'm not quite as alone as it feels like sometimes. So I'm glad I read it.

But the article is inherently ambiguous, and as a consequence it becomes polarising. In the very brief period that the posts were live, there were already comments coming from both "directions" (sorry, I can't think of a better term) that I found really upsetting. The article has been dismissed as providing ammunition to transphobes, people made condescending comments saying that the author should just transition already, etc, and it really upset me to see people ignoring what the author was saying about their own life. But at the same time the article has been used as ammunition by transphobes (not so much here, thankfully, but certainly elsewhere), and it puts trans folk in a very horrible position when cisgendered people use this kind of piece as a "conversation starter", and that upsets me too. Even in this thread where we're ostensibly not talking about the piece itself, some of the same dynamic sneaks in, and I find that it's really hard to handle.

I don't really know what the answer to this kind of problem is. If we had a space here in which we could trust that everyone will be kind, and everyone will be charitable toward and accepting of other folks lives, I'd want to be able to talk about a piece like this. I want to be able to believe MetaFilter is capable of being that kind of place, but to be honest I sort of don't. I've reached this point that I just nope out of most gender related threads, regardless whether they're talking about trans or cis folks, because the level of conflict involved in the discussions is really distressing. I guess I think that with where we are as a site, these were pretty good deletion decisions.
posted by langtonsant at 2:32 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


I found the mod response appropriate.
posted by zutalors! at 2:32 PM on July 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


We can have advanced, thorny discussions of delicate topics of identity when we prove we can handle them like thoughtful, respectful adults. Right now, we haven't proved we can handle even the basic 101 underpinnings for trans identity discussions, or (incredibly) race discussions. If it seems unfair or sad that some potentially interesting topics are taken away as if we're petulant children who can't handle it, maybe it's on us (and I'm referring here to the majority) to not act like fucking children. Recognize when you're way out of your depth. Don't ask questions you know you can google and read up on elsewhere. Don't tediously expect people to explain basic concepts to you. Don't pose academic hypotheticals as a "gotcha" or play devil's advocate. Don't demand civility or polite language. Do listen. Do trust marginalized people's lived experience and knowledge. Do take a back seat in discussions and be conscious of how dominant your voice is compared to those who understand the subject on a deeper level.

No one gets pats on the back for any of this. It's the basic lowest bar to participate.

That even these basic, imminently sensible guidelines will time and again be pushed back on and litigated just goes to show that we can't even be decent about how to be decent, right now.
posted by naju at 3:05 PM on July 15, 2016 [33 favorites]


Do trust marginalized people's lived experience and knowledge.

Well, even within the trans community there was a lot of diversity of opinion on the piece. A lot of disagreement. A lot of agreement. A lot of critique. A lot of what I thought was mean critique.

I read it and thought "eh, I hope the best for them". I got into a lot of discussion with other trans people who were extremely bothered by the article and I listened to them, but I didn't really understand why it raised such emotion.

Then I saw the post here on metafilter and how people where really resonating with the pain of the piece. And that was really hard to look at. I suddenly understood why so many other trans people were so vocal in their critique of the article. I understood*why*. Because suddenly our most private suffering was being put on display in the most perfect way for cis people to consume and comment on it in a way that felt like my *most private suffering* that I haven't even shared with my wife even, was fair game for everyone to discuss.

Now, I don't think anyone is being terrible. I think people are being compassionate and feeling empathetic.

But sometimes the way we think we are empathizing with one person's experience being a certain way is making another person being that same certain way feel really small.

And when that happens, I think a deletion is okay.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:27 PM on July 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


I was extremely disappointed by this article's inability to remain on the front page. It made me sad because it reminded me that MeFi is primarily no longer a place I go to in order to expand my world, but a security blanket I turn to by force of habit to see the same people have the same conversations about the same topics. Which is sometimes comforting, and sometimes annoying, but maybe ultimately, like, junkfood?

I don't mean to sound so down on MeFi; I really value this community, but it bums me out that I can pretty much predict how the discourse of any given thread will play out. I do get that certain topics merit treading lightly for various reasons; but I think either the mods are often a bit too quick to jump the gun and don't give members enough credit, or there's something deeply wrong with the community such that these topics truly can't be discussed humanely.
posted by threeants at 3:32 PM on July 15, 2016 [22 favorites]


I also just want to make clear that I'm not talking about some sort of "every perspective deserves 2 be heard equally!!" BS. But I think if it's not possible to have a non-hateful conversation about the article in question, that says a loooot more about the community than about the article.
posted by threeants at 3:37 PM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Today I learned on metafilter that a 35 foot long twinkie would weigh 54 tons?
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:38 PM on July 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


But I think if it's not possible to have a non-hateful conversation about the article in question, that says a loooot more about the community than about the article.

Right, and I think that's the key. I know it might be hard to admit it, but the community does have some rather evident issues--I've said before that this place has a reputation, and the thing is, that reputation isn't all good. (In the context I was referring to, the reputation was... "very white".)

It took a very long time for this place to move away from Boyzone. To be quite honest, I don't think it's there yet with a whole slew of other topics, and yes, that is an indictment of the community.
posted by qcubed at 3:41 PM on July 15, 2016 [23 favorites]


Today I learned on metafilter that a 35 foot long twinkie would weigh 54 tons?

That's a big twinkie.
posted by zarq at 3:43 PM on July 15, 2016


It's also striking to me that some commenters are talking about deep personal sufferings being awakened, while other commenters are like "I'm not personally edified. The discussion is too predictable for me". The difference is jarring.
posted by naju at 3:45 PM on July 15, 2016 [27 favorites]


threeants: " It made me sad because it reminded me that MeFi is primarily no longer a place I go to in order to expand my world"

I understand that you're coming from a well-intentioned place, but it's also very hard to read the article being described that way? For some folks the article gets read as an interesting topic that expands their world. For others it reads as a pretty raw expression of their everyday life. I'm not disagreeing with you - MetaFilter don't have a great track record with those kinds of situations, and it's not the best thing about the community. But at the same time I really don't think this is a situation in which the mods are jumping the gun or not having enough faith in the community. To me it reads more like the mods are acknowledging that these are painful topics for a subset of the community, and are prioritising their perspective over folks who just want to have an interesting conversation. I appreciate that.
posted by langtonsant at 3:47 PM on July 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


(I also want to clarify that "expand my world" stuff I mentioned, because I feel my phrasing there brought it a little closer than I'd like to a gross "let's Come Away With Lessons from marginalized people": I think there are explorations potentially raised by the article that could be undertaken by the general community as peers, not just the overly familiar unidirectional consumption of trans people's experiences.)
posted by threeants at 3:48 PM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


To me it reads more like the mods are acknowledging that these are painful topics for a subset of the community, and are prioritising their perspective over folks who just want to have an interesting conversation. I appreciate that.

Ok, yeah-- I get this. I guess to me it feels genuinely problematic that in an (IMO-- I know others disagree) nuanced article that's literally about someone's struggles as a closeted trans person, out trans people would be considered the only vulnerable stakeholders.
posted by threeants at 3:56 PM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


At the end of the day are we cool with using people's personal diary entries exploring their resentment towards out trans women as a springboard for discussion on what trans people's suffering looks like? Because y'all I'm kinda tired of having to bear witness to my suffering in order to expand other people's worldviews.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:01 PM on July 15, 2016 [39 favorites]


I've said before that this place has a reputation, and the thing is, that reputation isn't all good. (In the context I was referring to, the reputation was... "very white".)

Where does this place have a reputation? I would like to know what these other communities are, mostly because it feels strange that this site matters to anyone except maybe academics interested in online communities and moderation principles.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:11 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Where does this place have a reputation? I would like to know what these other communities are, mostly because it feels strange that this site matters to anyone except maybe academics interested in online communities and moderation principles.

More than once, when I've mentioned this site to friends who are PoC, I've heard that response.
posted by qcubed at 4:20 PM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I guess to me it feels genuinely problematic that in an (IMO-- I know others disagree) nuanced article that's literally about someone's struggles as a closeted trans person, out trans people would be considered the only vulnerable stakeholders.

I don't think the subset of community members who are public out as trans are the sole stakeholders.

I do think that the trans folks in the community that we've heard from (not all in public; not all publicly out; not (when are we ever around here) 100% unanimous about these matters) are pretty significant stakeholders in the situation, as far as our calculus on the decision to not have a thread about that article goes.

I'm getting into broken record territory but the fundamental reality is that this sort of thing is complicated as hell. If it were some shruggy no-brainer thing that everybody agreed about the topography and stakes of, it wouldn't be a difficult thing to navigate in the first place.

In any case, yes, as said previously we need to not turn this into a dissection of the article or an argument about its contents. I've nixed a couple of comments, let's please let that be.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:24 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's something I've read before in MetaTalk discussions, and I think it's worth saying again.

Posting something to MetaFilter because "I want people to discuss this" is not always the best reason to post something to MetaFilter. Posts should be made to share something interesting. If the purpose of a post is to spark discussion, and the subject of the post is contentious, then the post isn't because you want to share something. The post, then, is because you want to stir up some shit.

I'm not saying that is what happened with this particular post. I didn't see any of the three iterations of it posted.

I'm just mentioning that because, in threads like this in the past, that is something that has been mentioned before. Post to MetaFilter because you want to share, not because you want to discuss. YMMV.
posted by hippybear at 4:26 PM on July 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm a gay man who has had a couple (literally, two) comments about gay life deleted by mods who thought other GLBT people might find them offensive, or that they might provoke comments that GLBT people would find offensive. This played out of the period of several months.

In one case, it was a response to a comment from a (I believe) straight poster that I thought constituted an erasure of an aspect of gay history that I'm particularly aware of of. I suggested an alternate version of the comment with additional context that I thought might mitigate the negative response the mod was concerned about, but that was rejected as well.

In that case, I asked a mod if I might make a MetaTalk post exploring the wisdom of the deletion. I recevied a response that MetaTalk woud be the appropriate place for that conversation. However, when I submitted the post to MetaTalk it was rejected, and I was informed that I could only have the discussion of whether the deletion was merited if I could figure out some way to do that without revealing the substance of the comment that was deleted.

I do think there's a potential for members of marginalized communities who have opinions that are heterdox within those communities to find themselves censored on MetaFilter. I understand why this might be the case, and why in some instances in might be helpful to other members of the community who would find wide-ranging discussion of some topics painful.

But the feeling of seeing a straight commenter allowed to make a claim about gay history and being prevented from responding with my own contrasting experience of the issue was certainly something that made me feel less welcome on the site.
posted by layceepee at 4:35 PM on July 15, 2016 [25 favorites]


FWIW I had an FPP about Monica Loera (first trans murder of 2016) deleted by the mods for reasons and I was pissed off about that. I left mefi for 3 months I was so mad.

So I don't think the mods are biased, I really do think their reasons for deletions are measured by the context, not the person posting.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:40 PM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


However, when I submitted the post to MetaTalk it was rejected, and I was informed that I could only have the discussion of whether the deletion was merited if I could figure out some way to do that without revealing the substance of the comment that was deleted.

I am disappointed by this use of the MetaTalk queue.
posted by lalex at 4:41 PM on July 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


I have once or twice had a similar experience on the site to layceepee, as a Jewish person commenting on Zionism. It feels really alienating to have your perspective on your own lived experience censored, so I suppose that colors my feelings about the deleted article, its author, and people in the community who might relate to their feelings.
posted by threeants at 4:43 PM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


However, when I submitted the post to MetaTalk it was rejected, and I was informed that I could only have the discussion of whether the deletion was merited if I could figure out some way to do that without revealing the substance of the comment that was deleted.

The content of your submitted MetaTalk post was literally you restating your deleted comment, arguing the point again, and then recapping our whole conversation up to that point. It wasn't a community discussion thing, it was an end run around having your comment deleted. I was and am sympathetic about your frustration at having had the comment deleted, but it wasn't remotely a good use of MetaTalk as originally written.

We exchanged a lot of email that day. I gave you a fair amount of advice on how you could rework and resubmit the post to be more workable. You didn't, which is entirely your prerogative and that's fine because you were under zero obligation to do so, but this is not something where I shut you down flat and refused you the option of making a post; I worked with you at length and was explicitly open to finding a compromise post that would be more workable and less explicitly "here's my deleted comment that shouldn't have been deleted".
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:58 PM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


The content of your submitted MetaTalk post was literally you restating your deleted comment, arguing the point again, and then recapping our whole conversation up to that point. It wasn't a community discussion thing, it was an end run around having your comment deleted.

I don't think that's an accurate account of what happened. Near the end of the email exchange, I wrote: If i'm understand you correctly, you are saying we could have a discussion of "where the line is between moderator judgement on specific cases and community discussion of those" but we would need to have it without reference to any particular specific case. Have I got that right?

Your reply was: That's the right territory, yeah. That said, in the spirit of avoiding another round of "but you said I *could*" cropping up here: I am feeling doubtful based on how this conversation that there is a metatalk that could come out of this from you that would be actually divorced from the specific situation vs. that being elided as a fig leaf but then coming into the discussion more or less immediately anyway.

That's not shutting me down flat, but I don't think it's the "well, I tried to help you craft in a way that would work and you decided not to do it," scenario your description implies.
posted by layceepee at 5:19 PM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guess to me it feels genuinely problematic that in an (IMO-- I know others disagree) nuanced article that's literally about someone's struggles as a closeted trans person, out trans people would be considered the only vulnerable stakeholders.

I'm out for the purposes of talking about trans stuff on metafilter but I'm not out in general and I haven't transitioned. I'm not the only one in this thread. I'm not sure where you got the idea that all the people on metafilter talking about being trans are actually out, or that trans people who aren't out would be any more in favor of that post staying up.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:22 PM on July 15, 2016 [23 favorites]


I mean, and if you're not positioning "out trans people" versus "not out trans people", but rather trying to talk about cis people as stakeholders here I don't even know
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:23 PM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


Would a better FPP include a lot a varying views of trans women talking about being in the closet and having that one in there with a caveat that it's potentially a pretty rough ride?
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:26 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


That's not shutting me down flat, but I don't think it's the "well, I tried to help you craft in a way that would work and you decided not to do it," scenario your description implies.

That was the tail end and in the context of a conversation I had with you over several hours and sixteen emails that day. And immediately after the bit you quote, I reiterated that I'd be okay looking at a draft if you wanted to give it a shot. I don't want to relitigate this in here further; again, I did and do appreciate your frustration about the deletion but I don't think we're gonna agree at this point about the rest.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:33 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


The thing that deeply, deeply told me: not a good FPP was its first sentence. I don't mean to be snarky; the phrase that went through my head was one I learned, I think, here. It is: when people tell you who they are, believe them. This person told me that these are just thoughts they wanted to write out but not publish or defend, and - I believe them. It's a privilege to read someone's inner thoughts and experience. I could never, ever get behind making them the subject of a discussion, or sending them viral, even if they never knew, when they've explicitly said that's not what they want.
posted by Dashy at 5:46 PM on July 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


there's something deeply wrong with the community such that these topics truly can't be discussed humanely.

To be fair, I don't think there are many places on Earth where conversations about trans people are humane. A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies!
posted by odinsdream at 5:51 PM on July 15, 2016 [18 favorites]


I don't want to relitigate this in here further

If you want to end the discussion, it would be fairer to do that before impllying that I quoted you out of context.
posted by layceepee at 5:53 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I got hugs if you want 'em. Just take one, there's plenty for all.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:57 PM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


More than once, when I've mentioned this site to friends who are PoC, I’ve heard that response.

Oh, interesting. This is actually within my expected parameters for “reputation”, though I’d be curious where they heard about the site as well. My assumption had been that there was a subreddit/forum/webring somewhere where “metafilter” was a known negative thing.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:59 PM on July 15, 2016


Yeah, not reddit. It's awkward enough, and given my experience with the site, I don't recommend the blue to people of color anymore.
posted by qcubed at 6:05 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Come on, layceepee, this thread isn't about your experience in rightly or wrongly havin a post to MeTa shut down. It seems tangential to the discussion of this issue.
posted by smoke at 6:06 PM on July 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


I don't think it's worth losing good people to have an 'interesting' or 'informative' discussion, regardless of the subject. I trust the mod folk to be able to see when the path of a post is going to head that way - they're pretty good at it.

I say that as someone who has put both feet in his mouth in MeTa, chewed hard and attempted to swallow.
posted by Mooski at 6:17 PM on July 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm out for the purposes of talking about trans stuff on metafilter but I'm not out in general and I haven't transitioned. I'm not the only one in this thread.

I just wanna add that that's the case for me as well. I can't speak for anyone else but it's definitely why I at least found the article so objectionable. I deeeeefinitely consider closeted trans people vulnerable stakeholders here.
posted by elsilnora at 8:15 PM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


I saw the piece posted elsewhere and read it, and I thought it was a powerful account of one individual's lived experience, and I also knew *without question* that I would not be putting it up on Facebook or Twitter--because I felt it would create an awkward, difficult, even impossible situation for my trans friends. Some of them would feel the burden of expectation to respond to the piece and offer their take, or might even be explicitly called upon by other mutual (likely cis) friends to do so. With the knowledge (or at least suspicion) of how that situation would play itself out, and ALSO considering the vulnerability of the personal account in the piece and the deeply personal, private-made-public way transgender bodies are discussed, putting my trans/nonconforming friends in that situation felt like it would be a violation of their privacy and an enormous burden of emotional labor. (Now, if one of them felt like sharing the article themselves--since I'm sure many/most of them have seen it--that would be another thing, though I expect that decision would cause a lot of the same difficulty among their own friends.)

Anyway, that's why I decided not to post it on Facebook, among my own community of friends and family. And for me at least, the same rules apply here, and I absolutely think the mods erred on the correct side of "shutting it down" here.

The internet is a great big place. It's full of strange and wonderful things, powerful testimonies, half-baked hot takes, controversial viewpoints, total dumpster fires, and... this whole sentence is frankly a big venn diagram of overlapping "things on the internet," really. I guess my *point* is that Metafilter occupies a very very tiny part of that big damn venn diagram. MeFi is my favorite internet watering hole, but I certainly don't expect everything that might be of interest to a theoretical Someone Somewhere has to be posted, dissected, and argued about here, especially given the predictably problematic nature of particular discussions. To quote The Dark Tower, there are other worlds than these.
posted by duffell at 8:26 PM on July 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm just going to say I'm pretty hurt by cis people suggesting that the deletions suggest Metafilter is banning discussion of non-normative trans experiences. It doesn't feel like an accusation leveled at Metafilter, but at trans people. For a start, do you have any idea how much energy we put into try to disabuse people of their notions of what it means to be trans? Were you not listening?

Secondly, it's a massive misreading of that essay and the fact it lends itself to such a misreading is precisely why it makes a lousy FPP. (It's not actually reflecting a non-normative trans experience!) I think the essay's lousy in general, but the number of doors it opens for people to say "Aha! Now I can expound on trans issues and gender" is the real issue here.
posted by hoyland at 6:18 AM on July 16, 2016 [32 favorites]


I would like add that I really agree with Hoyland's perspective.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:28 AM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm glad the post was deleted as someone who read the article and had Opinions about it. I try to stay quiet in trans threads and I would like to think that I would not have blundered cluelessly into a potential thread about this article and shared those opinions in a way that hurt and exhausted trans people in it, but I'm horrified to realise that I can't swear to it because I might have been keen to talk about it when it is absolutely not my place to do so. I'm glad the mods knew there was a risk that someone like me would cause offence, no matter if it was unintentional or not, and took the step of protecting our trans MeFites from my ill informed stupidity, but I'm also really sorry that that's still necessary because it's not good enough. I'll continue to do my best to listen and learn and keep quiet, and I'm really grateful to the people commenting in this thread to remind me why that's so important. I appreciate the emotional labour you contribute to this site and I'm sorry you're still having to do it.
posted by billiebee at 11:02 AM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


Cis, trans NB, I think we all have it in us to say harmful things. For instance I recently had to learn how to not be so doom and gloom because a lot of my trans women friends would get really triggered and upset by how I would bring that stuff up. It's why the mods here deleted my Monica Loera post. I have plenty of room to learn and grow. None of us are anywhere near perfect on any of this. So please, everyone, stay engaged, try to learn, try to grow. Actively listen AND actively participate. I have, as evidenced by mod actions on my FPP's here, things to learn about my own trans experience from well informed cis people, which is counterintuitive but uh, there it is. Maybe that's because I'm dense who knows...

I want to do better to foster a "room" that is way less hostile to all people, where we can all be mindful of how different groups of people approach a subject and do our best to stay positively engaged.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:07 PM on July 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


I really disliked the essay because it was confusing to me, as someone who is cis but knows a lot about trans issues through friends, colleagues and family who are trans. I read the essay several times, disagreed with most of it, but didn't understand it. So to me, that doesn't make a good FPP when intelligent people cannot read something.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:08 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think maybe cis people expecting that all essays by trans people will fit neatly into their pre-existing knowledge might be part of the problem here.
posted by Krom Tatman at 1:58 PM on July 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


Sorry, I was referring to actually comprehension of the language in the blog post and not any sort of knowledge.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:17 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think that hoyland's comment above really capture my worries. The original piece is structured as a diary entry and not aimed at telling a single coherent story. That's totally to be expected for a personal journal entry, but as an essay that ended up being disseminated more widely, it's not ideal. It opens the door for anyone and everyone to throw in their own half-considered opinions about gender, without really considering who gets hurt by those comments. My experience has been that those conversations don't usually go well. The temperature in the room rises, people say ill-advised things, and a lot of folks get caught up in the inevitable crossfire, with a lot of distress experienced by people across a pretty broad range of gender identities. Or to borrow Deoridhe's language above, there's a lot of splash damage. Speaking for myself, I really noticed this effect the moment the first deleted thread started. Although I'm very much on the side of wanting to be supportive toward the original author, I really did not want to see the rest of that conversation unfold.
posted by langtonsant at 2:30 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm the one that posted the FPP the first time, and ... I'm glad it was deleted.

I posted it because it was so thoughtful and searingly honest, and because (as someone whose partner is trans, out to close family and friends but not ever likely to transition) so much of it felt very, very familiar. I and he are often frustrated that the dominant narrative is so far from his lived experience, whereas this person's narrative was a lot closer to what he (and I, as his wife) have been through. Maybe he should "just transition already!" (as someone in the first thread put it) but life is never so simple. And I just wanted to have some discussion of something that felt much closer to our experience.

But as soon as the thread started, even though there were no fights or anything breaking out, I began to have an ominous sinking feeling that perhaps I had made a mistake. I did not mean to make any members of Metafilter (trans or not) feel put on the spot, or that they had to justify the choices they had made, or misunderstood. I didn't mean to create any "splash damage." In hindsight I wish I hadn't posted it, even though I absolutely am very glad to have read the article and I'm selfishly sad that this wasn't a discussion we could have. I didn't want anyone to be hurt by it and I should have been able to see where it would go.
posted by forza at 2:46 PM on July 16, 2016 [24 favorites]


Well, if I could go back and do the thread over I would not link to zinnia jones. That's a conclusion I've reached as a result of this meta.

Can we talk about posting a thread that contains works written by several trans people's experiences of being in the closet?

I really don't think that piece is a good candidate because the author has posted in their medium post that the piece was never intended for mass consumption like this.

But I think an FPP covering trans people writing about having been and choosing to remain in the closet is a worthy FPP.

I had a thing published in a feminist journal last year that covers being in the closet and coming out. (Which I recently posted to medium) The subject is has been written about by lots of people and shouldn't be verboten here IMO.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:59 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


If [cis]people talked about trans people that way you'd say it was

"if white people talked about black people that way"
"if French people talked about Istanbul that way"
"if women talked about men that way"

this is not a useful argument, and i know you know enough about semiotics and discursive rhetoric to figure out why

but

how oppressed people talk about the people who oppress them is not something i'd frame as being about ~consideration~ and ~respect~ instead of . . . power, maybe.
posted by listen, lady at 4:43 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


also . . . intelligent people have many fine resources from our very own members as JB's appended statement demonstrates

sometimes it's okay to have to learn something
even if you're already intelligent
and annoyed about it
posted by listen, lady at 4:46 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can we talk about posting a thread that contains works written by several trans people's experiences of being in the closet?

I think that was one real weakness of this piece as an FPP. It had this "Trans Person had Deep Thoughts on Gender" vibe and I think you needed experience to realise to it was "being in the closet does your head in a bit". But part of me worries that a broader FPP would be, I don't know, voyeuristic, like "look at trans people's pain" (even if they've put it on the internet).

I think you also get into sort of a weird place where a lot of what you can find about being in the closet is written by people who eventually transitioned. And yet the people who hold onto the decision not to transition for decades are out there. That's what was unusual about this piece,* we rarely hear from people in the "I'm not going to come out or transition" place (well, aside from every trans forum ever online).

*I do want to emphasise again that she's telling a super normative story. This is not someone who would have problems finding a therapist or accessing medical transition should she choose to for want of fitting the Trans Narrative. The first half of the essay is textbook.
posted by hoyland at 5:02 PM on July 16, 2016 [21 favorites]


I'm gonna requote a thing that griphus posted above that I think is pretty important for my fellow MeFites of privilege to keep in mind. As in, I like it so much I wish it wasn't buried in amongst a bunch of other really smart and insightful words:
We are not all peers here.
I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of y'all in real life, and want basically every last one of you as my best friend. Everybody here, as far as I know, is pretty wonderful. And I know that MetaFilter has a reputation amongst its users as a sort of home away from home, even a shelter in many ways, and that it can feel really shitty to be "rejected" (perceived) by people you want to feel intimately close to, and respected by, and so on.

But with an audience of tens of thousands, you're simply never going to have the intimacy that you might perceive yourself as having. Even if you've been here for fifteen years or longer. I'm slowly coming up to my tenth anniversary (with my original account), and by now I've come to terms with the fact that there are some things I feel, some thoughts I have, that I simply won't ever post on this site, with this audience. Not all of them are problematic, except within the context of this many people, and this many different varieties of person.

(Just now, for instance, I deleted two probably-harmless attempts at this paragraph, because they each dinged my "maybe not" filter in a way I didn't want to ignore.)

Your curious, idle, exploratory thoughts, themselves evidence of a sharp and inquisitory mind, might make somebody else's attempts to belong here torturous and painful. Your various perceived slights, which you perceive because they are, on a level, there, are other people's tickets to being able to discuss things that are more deeply important to them than they'll ever be to you, with the community you so cherish and love. The ways in which they perceive you to be alienating and rejecting them are vastly, vastly more dire than the ways in which you feel hurt back.

Which sucks. And which is why I now sharply curtail my MeFi-ing. It's not that I dislike the people—it's that it does hurt, on some level, to feel unwelcome in a place where I'd love to feel at home. Much better to find a personal grotto I can find my own, most days. But here's the thing: I'm privileged just to have such grottos. I'm also privileged in that every single one of my sore spots is the result of personal neurosis and long-held grudge, and not, like, entire societies misunderstanding me and trying hard to outlaw my existence.

What for you feels like a painful jab to the notion of intimacy, community, fairness, and so on is the literal least MetaFilter can do to stop entire groups of people from leaving this site in fucking droves. The compromises the mods find to please all their members are, like all compromises, unsatisfying to everybody on all sites. I know a lot of people who left because MetaFilter was "too censored"; I know a lot of people who left because the "free speech" it didn't feel was censorable triggered the everliving shit out of them. Because their attempts to even mention that a thing WAS problematic, let alone articulate why, was met with fierce hostility of a really fucked-up variety.

Even from theoretically wonderful people! The original conversations about women being treated like shit were sparked by one of my favorite MeFites saying something abominably shitty; that's sort of how it goes. You can be many kinds of wonderful and still be a piece of shit to some group of people or other out of ignorance and apathy or just-not-grokking it. And if moderation has started doing things that feel prohibitive, such as deleting threads before shitshows erupt, maybe that's because the mods have decided that's the best compromise that can exist here. And that barely feels like a compromise at all, to me.

This is a really mucky and intersectional problem. One person I know drove another person to close their account because Person 2 thought Person 1 was being intolerant of them, and then Person 1 left because they thought Person 3 was being intolerant of them, and Person 3 left because they thought Group 4 was being crappy to them, and on and on and on. Way early on I had a mental map of which users I thought were cool and which ones I thought were awful, and it turns out that's a terrible goddamn idea because everybody is problematic to somebody else, and it's compromises all the way down.

The people here are lovely and you hopefully will find some of them to be peers, but the community as a whole is not your peer group. That sucks for you but it sucks even more for a bunch of other people you haven't heard from, all of whom would benefit from some site change that mildly irritates you to the point of posting fifty angry comments and then closkng your account. Communities are hard to change because literally nobody in them wants to be made to feel like an outsider, and growing pains mean somebody's gonna, at least until they figure out what's going on.
posted by rorgy at 5:30 PM on July 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


That's good feedback Hoyland. Hell if you go back far enough on my tumblr blog you can see where in February 2014 I pretty much gave up ever being able to transition. So yeah, the article felt pretty much like "uh, yeah Jen, you and me and everyone I know".

So maybe something a little more up the food chain of "being in the closet" maybe less personal testimonies and something that explores "the closet" in a more abstract sense and not so much a personal confession like the lyrics to a death cab for cutie song. (I keed! I keed!)
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:44 PM on July 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


I kind of thought metafilter *had* got to the point where basic civility on these posts could reasonably be expected: Don’t misgender people, respect their choices, for gods sake don’t get all worked up about cis/trans prefixes, all that stuff. Am I horribly wrong?

There's a lot more to basic civility than that. In fact, that those are things we've had to fight for says a lot. You are indeed horribly wrong.
posted by Dysk at 8:54 PM on July 16, 2016 [24 favorites]


I read this article nodding and nodding, like, "Yes, yes, YES." As a trans person who finds misandry barely more tolerable than misogyny, it was a joy to hear somebody say this stuff and say it so damn well. And of course, it was immediately (repeatedly) scrubbed from Metafilter. I've pretty much given up commenting about gender stuff here. People say some incredibly shitty, sexist stuff about men here, and I no long bother to try and engage with them. No matter how polite I try to be, I know my comments will probably get deleted... and theirs probably won't.

I post this comment with a resigned shrug, knowing it may well get deleted too.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:40 PM on July 17, 2016 [21 favorites]


I am transgender, I hadn't seen the article elsewhere, and I'm very affected and really glad I read it. So there's something. hoyland mentioned discussions about it that took place elsewhere, and I will go google for those but also if someone felt like me-mailing me a link to a discussion they liked, I'd appreciate it.

Just, as much as I may want to discuss something, that doesn't mean the discussion should happen; or that it should happen here and now.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 3:40 PM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


misandry is just as real as reverse racism (which is to say, not at all).
posted by nadawi at 3:46 PM on July 17, 2016 [21 favorites]


misandry is just as real as reverse racism (which is to say, not at all).

This comment, perhaps, embodies why this article is a bad fit for MetaFilter. The consensus here is that misandry isn’t real. To me, the article reads on the surface as contending that misandry is real. If both sides are set in their beliefs, there is no discussion to be had, and only fighting.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:25 PM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


I would really have liked to be able to talk about that article here, but I can accept that it's not possible.

When I read it, I felt like it really could have been an Ask ("I feel this way, is there anything I can do about it") and that was how I responded to it as a reader - as an expression of pain and suffering from someone who could use a sympathetic ear but who was stuck in a headspace where they maybe could not reach out for the sympathy they needed. But I can see how it would have become a referendum on transness instead of a meditation on a person who has a lot of the sads and a lot of the angries. I'm still sad that we don't have a space here where we could discuss it without being a shitshow - I would have valued discussion from a lot of the people here.
posted by Frowner at 4:33 PM on July 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


People say some incredibly shitty, sexist stuff about men here

I'll go on the record to owning up to doing this in the past. I was really really mad at toxic masculinity. I projected that way way too far. Ursula, you don't know this but it was you calling out the shitty comments that made me look at my own behavior and think "Ursula is right, I am being shitty."

I've since learned better.

I think this deserves a discussion some time, maybe not here in this thread.

I want you to know that I hear you Ursula and I think you have valid critiques here on metafilter, even if there's elements of what you say that I might not wholly agree with.

Also, I'm trying not to be the type to ignore everything a person says in a comment and zero in on the one thing I don't like and pick it apart because I think that is also a shitty thing we do here on metafilter as well, seriously a little acknowledgement of the good parts of a comment would go a long way towards helping the critique not feel like an ambivalent brush off
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:53 PM on July 17, 2016 [17 favorites]


If we define misandry as a hatred of men, because they are men, then yes, it's obviously real. If you can read an article like this and believe that the hatred of men has no harmful effects in this world and DOESN'T EVEN EXIST, I'm not gonna spend my time arguing with you.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:59 PM on July 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


Just to add another voice to this, as someone who is AMAB and presents as male, I also think a lot of really gross things are said about men on MetaFilter, and I'm just exhausted. I'm not making a claim of symmetry, because that would be silly, but please stop telling me that you aren't saying horrible things about me to my face. It is gross, and it is harmful.
posted by langtonsant at 5:06 PM on July 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


misandry is just as real as reverse racism (which is to say, not at all)

Then perhaps you have another term we can use for dismissive contempt for men?

This past year has been a really tough one for me, and I've come to MF a lot to distract me from some really shitty situations. And social justice is important to me, though as a middle aged white cis male I usually end up in an ally role. And that's fine. So I read a lot of social justice threads. And almost invariably in any thread that touched on gender, there were plenty of comments about how shitty men are in general. And I listened. And I listened. And I had to stop reading MetaFilter because I would come away from the site not just feeling like the failure I felt like before I came by, but as the most useless of all things, a old white cis male American monogamous gay man (not even queer! just gay). And I then I would imagine how I wouldn't bother stepping out of the way if a truck came at me on the street. Or if one of my homophobic neighbors decided to follow through on his threats some time.

It's not just you nadawi, there's a number of people here who, in my darker moments, have made comments that have led me closer to that very dark place. And as someone who believes that intent really does matter, not just effect, I won't say that my feelings are yours or anyone else's fault beside my own. But they sure helped me get there.

If anyone is concerned, I've got a job now, homelessness and hunger are further away, and I haven't been tempted to give up for a while. But god damm it, it's tough to be here sometimes.
posted by conic at 5:20 PM on July 17, 2016 [19 favorites]


misogyny forms the basis of oppression of women because of the hatred of women. women are not en masse oppressing men for being men. you can put words in my mouth if you'd like, but i stand by my belief that misandry isn't real, and that's the joke. i understand that misandry jokes can be harmful (and i've removed a few from my repertoire after talking about them in intersectional ways) but that's not the same thing as saying misandry is actually a thing.
posted by nadawi at 5:21 PM on July 17, 2016 [27 favorites]


You're not really listening here, are you?
posted by langtonsant at 5:22 PM on July 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think the "is misandry real?" question is likely to be exactly as helpful as the "is racism possible against white people?" and for the same reasons. Let's give it a miss in this post - if we want to hash that out in particular, let's give it its own thread.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:24 PM on July 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


A thing I think that some of us struggle with: hearing criticism of people with a characteristic we share (whiteness, maleness, etc) but not using that as a club to beat ourselves. Using tumblr-speak to beat myself up was a habit that sent me, actually, to therapy - after it had, yes, caused me to become kind of self-harming.

I really, really hear people when you say that certain discourses about men and masculinity are destructive to you. I think it's a...configuration of character? It comes along, for some of us, with having the kind of character where we can say "yes, whiteness [for example] makes people terrible, I really believe that and want to act in knowledge of that fact". And then we get into the "therefore I am terrible, therefore I should...." and that's not so great.

That is totally a real experience, everyone, and I personally - looking as sincerely at myself as I possibly can - do not believe is rooted in a desire to deny oppression, or a desire to deny our own roles in oppression.

I think it's actually just a kind of broken-brain thing that some people have. We can't turn off the critical voice and if the critical voice comes with any kind of moral authority that we acknowledge, we extra can't turn it off.

For me, it also has to do with self-hatred. If I can find a new reason to despise myself, well, we're off to the races.

I really, really think, though, based on my own experience, that the only way to make that better is to exercise self-care and self-honesty (and maybe find some trusted friends or a therapist to talk it through with - finding a tumblr-literate therapist was a huge piece of luck for me). The call is coming from inside the house - the "someone I like said that men suck, therefore I suck, therefore I should hate myself and feel shitty even if I am really trying hard to be a decent person, maybe especially if I am trying hard to be a decent person" thing is coming from our self-destructive side and from the ways that we've been taught by the world to hate ourselves. The way to beat it is to deal with ourselves - which, yeah, sometimes means not reading That Thread or those tumblrs or whatever - and not about telling people with real, political grievances that they can't talk amongst themselves in frank language.

I totally feel you all on this one. This kind of left-internet-mediated self-hatred is real, but it's about us, not them.
posted by Frowner at 5:55 PM on July 17, 2016 [40 favorites]


Folks, this is *not the thread* for this particular derail. It's also probably not a good time in general for it, as everyone's levels of cope are severely depleted. Please be compassionate in general and also refresh, because I've deleted a few things. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:01 PM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


nadawi's account is closed now if anyone was wondering
posted by beerperson at 7:07 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


We really are a circular firing squad here sometimes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:15 PM on July 17, 2016


im gonna go process all this and hopefully come back in a way that's more supportive of the wider trans community not just here, but everywhere.

This has been a heavy weekend for trans stuff on mefi and based on everything that's been said It is clear to me that I need to relearn some basics that I lost along the way.

Hugs y'all.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:48 PM on July 17, 2016


nadawi's account is closed now if anyone was wondering

Oh fer fuck's sake. What's the point in not having the hugely contentious threads that'll just drive away long time trans members if we're just going to have hugely contentious meta threads that drive away long time trans members in their place?

Well done everyone. We can all be fucking proud of ourselves for what we've achieved here.
posted by Dysk at 8:56 PM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


nadawi's account is closed now if anyone was wondering

There were multiple closures, not simply Nadawi’s. Hopefully, once folks have cooled off, they will come back! I mean, I hope.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:02 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Welp, came back from the woods, checked high favs, saw this thread, seeing myself out now. I like some of the posters here but I'm tired of this stupid shit happening all the time. Peace
posted by beefetish at 9:33 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm really sorry folks, but the thing with "I'm not going to talk about the article," but then basically talking about the article isn't going to work out well here, so a couple of comments deleted. I'd urge people to take a breath, and maybe we can come back to a discussion of how we deal with gender on the site in another thread where there isn't so much invested in this particular highly personal narrative that obviously delivers so many different messages to different individuals, with various painful personal associations. In the meantime, please try to be kind to yourselves. Things are very, very frightening, angry, and violent all over right now, and we're all on edge and feeling raw. Maybe we can back away from attacking each other here, and return in a separate directed discussion of useful ways we can all improve our communication about these related issues on the site. Thank you.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:27 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


r_n & taz: Then why is this metatalk still open for comments?

You and the other mods have made it clear that there’s no straight answer to rangi’s original question, beyond “if the trans members of metafilter find something problematic then we’re probably going to delete it because their presence here is more important than discussing every trans-related article that gets posted”.

There’s clearly a conversation that some people want to have about the use of very negative language about groups of people that in the aggregate hold positions of privilege over minority or other less privileged groups, but you don’t want to let that discussion run.

So close it up.
posted by pharm at 2:13 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, I was pondering doing that. I agree that if people want to have a conversation about a different aspect of discussion on the site, it's not terribly useful to do that with this particular article as a fulcrum. I'll close this for now, since I think we've addressed the post question from our end, and we can revisit other questions raised in a future post that doesn't rely on personal reactions to this piece as a key point of reference.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:36 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


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