So yesterday I wrote a thing.
The internet as it relates to trans rights has been a bin fire for some time now, and for some reason yesterday I woke up and almost on impulse started writing about my journey from gender-critical to trans-inclusive. I wanted to share a bit of hope that people can change materially and embrace beliefs and ideas that they would have found unthinkable in the past, and I had absolutely NO CLUE how that would blow up.
The response has been huge; it’s been about 30 hours since I shared, my notifications have been like jumping beans throughout. This took a bit of getting used to, I’m not very active on Twitter - I use it more to read, observe and absorb than to transmit - hence my Twitter feed is usually more tumbleweeds with the occasional flurry of fairy tale chat or Scottish Greenery. So yeah, I found that a bit weird.
What I wanted to do was reflect back on some of what’s been coming through, in the hopes this might enable those of us who genuinely want to pick our way sensitively through the subject of trans rights to find ways to make things a bit better.
So it started with support, love and gratitude, almost exclusively from the trans community and allies. One piece of lovely feedback that brought a proper lump to my throat came from a few folk who said I had enabled them to experience empathy for gender-critical people. (Language point - I am still trying to work out what term to use here that will be acceptable to the GC community and not considered by them to be offensive or a slur; please feel free to weigh in here if you have constructive advice for me on this.)
Then the negativity started – strong themes of really intense anger, disbelief and scorn; a lot of personal comments and assumptions about who I am and what I was trying to achieve by writing the thread. Many people taking my story about the past and pulling parts of it out as representative of the person I am today, who in reality is a very different animal from the woman I describe in my thread.
But here’s the thing – among some almost hilariously incorrect assumptions and judgements – some of it was actually rather insightful, if unkindly-worded. A few people made some pretty astute guesses about trauma stuff in my past (which I don’t talk about online) which definitely contributed to the “poor me” mindset I described in the thread. Lots of folk noted how shallow, self-absorbed and attention seeking I seemed to them – and given that the thread tuned into a lot of those old feelings, I can see now how the language I chose to use may have reflected that to folk who were interested in looking for it.
One comment actually made me laugh out loud with its brutal, awful truth – I can’t bring myself to trawl through the mess of notifications to find it verbatim - but it was along the lines of “Girl, we’re fighting FGM and you’re worried about fitting into clothes in Zara!??”
Oh my God, YES! This is absolutely spot-on; touché!
Zero sarcasm, I genuinely raise my hat to this particular member of the GC community for their services to reality-checking. A tendency to be a bit shallow here and there is definitely something that still clings to me from the scarcity mindset.
But that’s the thing about trauma and survival mode, some of us cope by focusing on small shit (this is my coping mechanism of choice, in case that wasn’t already clear.) Some of us cope by focusing outward and judging and attacking what’s out there in the bigger picture. Not a lot of us choose to tackle the trauma head-on and examine, warts-and-all what lurks inside ourselves and could do with being punted for the benefit of ourselves and the world in general.
Despite these few insightful comments, and a handful of GC people who seemed genuinely curious about my experience and to whom I was happy to reply, the constant barrage of negativity very quickly just became noise that I didn’t feel drawn to engage with. Eventually I muted the thread and breathed a sigh of relief that my wee blue notification balls were calming down. I tend to be pretty resilient these days, but there’s no point in pushing it.
So what have I learned from the whole experience?
Some people will read what I’ve written, assume that my intentions are good, and receive roughly the message I intended from it, whether they agree with it or not. Some of them may reply to express gratitude and appreciation, or even just “I disagree, but I respect your honesty.”
Some people will read what I’ve written, find something they disagree with or don’t fully understand, and get curious. This leads to questions and conversations, which so far have been interesting and broadly respectful.
Some people will read what I’ve written, find something they disagree with and say I am stupid, misogynistic, attention-seeking, a male TRA posing as ex-GC for campaigning purposes, not worth listening to, a danger to women and girls, not what we [the trans community] need, another cis woman trying to make herself feel better, desperate for validation, lying, a nobody.
You know what all of those things have in common? None of them have anything to do with who I am as a person. Not one. That people can respond in such dramatically different ways to the same information, delivered in the same words, simply tells us that as humans we are seeing people as we assume them to be according to our own beliefs and values, not as they actually are. I don’t have to take any of the feedback from that thread into consideration unless I know in my own heart that there are grains of truth present (once more, nod to “srsly, whinging about Zara??” person for that one.)
It’s been a weird, intense 30 hours or so, but interesting and valuable. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had the chance to practice the whole letting feedback land in front of me when I can sense it’s born of somebody else’s issues (not historically a strength of mine), and I’ve definitely gone some way to validating my pet theory that if I want somebody to hear me, I really need to commit to consistently occupying categories 1 and 2 from the above.
Signing off for now, and working on nurturing my belief that all humans are doing the best they can with the tools and understanding they have. One thing I heard a while back that really resonated with me (can't remember the source, sorry) is that when we hold beliefs about people, we subconsciously behave in ways that cause them to validate those beliefs. I have observed the truth of that in my own relationships, so I feel it makes sense to keep those rose-tinted glasses polished.
Be well and stay safe everybody. :-)