A few weeks ago I went to a dive bar in a rural town, a bar that has a reputation for violence. Many of the people who go are working class, most are not white.
I sat down and had a few drinks and got to playing pool with a group of laborers. After they saw me go to the women’s toilet and we had gotten to a point where they felt less shy about asking awkward questions, one of them asked if I was really a woman.
I told him “I’m not sure bud, but I do have an F on my license”. It helped to break the ice.
After that I went through the 20 questions that every trans person since forever has had to go through. “Do you have a dick?” “When did you get it done?” “Did it hurt?” “Are you saying you have a clit now?” Bla bla bla. A younger, less tolerant version of myself would have been outraged that they were reducing me to my genitals. An angrier, more bitter version of myself would have hurled abuse in their direction or immediately dismissed them as irredeemable. A sadder, lonelier version of myself would never even have gone to that bar in the first place because obviously it is not an echo chamber for the fourth wave queer trans cyber feminist discourse that dominates social media.
But the person I am today, after living for over 20 years as a woman in society, understands that most people are not consumed with spite. Most people are not secretly trying to undermine trans folks’ very existence. Don’t get me wrong - I have also been in exasperating real-world conversations with folks who sit there telling me to my face that I have an untreated mental illness and am suffering from delusions. Which is almost funny because I also have an actual mental illness that has caused me to suffer from actual delusions and I can’t believe “actual delusions” is a thing I just had to type. It’s alarming to come face to face with someone who truly hates you and everything that you are. Fortunately, in my personal experience, that is very much the exception and not the rule.
So, I’m talking to these guys and then it becomes a joke of the evening and now they’re talking about their own genitals. Because they’re men! And then one of the guys becomes the “big clit guy” and we all laugh. And one opens up about how he watched a documentary about trans people once, and it turns out he was quietly the expert in the group, but he’d never mentioned it to his buds before. They all said they’d never met a trans person in real life. I told them that guaranteed they had, they just didn’t know it. We talked about passing and gender non-conformance and detransition. They thanked me for being open.
Me sharing my experiences helped them to trust me enough to open up about theirs, which I won’t repeat here because that’s their story to tell, but suffice to say big, tough construction workers got struggles in society too.
I like to think they will go home with a more open mind. I like to think they might be just slightly better husbands, or better fathers for having met me. Maybe not, I dunno. But maybe.
And I have had these conversations over and over again, all over the world, with people of many different cultures and backgrounds. They usually turn out well. I accept that they’re going to say shit that is insensitive and problematic because they just don’t know better. I don’t correct them, because to me building a connection is more important than challenging their use of language.
Now, I know meeting people outside of work is a different situation to having a conversation at work. Work - especially white collar work - is a fraught environment where colleagues are expected to uphold a (not always formalized) code of conduct. I’m not sure that the current trend of creating the illusion of a casual and friendly workplace that actually is as restrictive and punitive as any other is entirely good for the workers’ mental health, but that’s another conversation. This is the current reality, so I get why Tim’s comments were not appropriate for work. In my opinion, neither were other contributors’, but that’s beside the point.
What I object to is not a workplace dismissal. What I object to is the clown car of (mostly cis!) bystanders who cheer this on like it is some great victory for trans rights. It is not. Will Tim and Roman and all their family and friends and fans come out of this with a better understanding of trans people? Will they really go “man, the scales dropped from my eyes, we totally should make it easier trans folks to access hormone therapy and get their surgeries done”? No. They will come out of it thinking that their guy got fired by a bunch of trans activists because he cared about women’s rights. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now the actual hate-filled scumbags who want the discussion to be framed in the most polarizing way possible have a new group of folks to try to radicalize. How does this help trans people? How does this protect trans people? Next time I am traveling outside of the safe urban bubble, some guy might punch me in the face because “my people” got his bud fired.
Anyway, I am really tired of all of this. I have lost sleep all week over this issue. Last night I removed RPS from my favorites and my browser start page because this has taken too much out of me. I am so tired of having my voice ignored or dismissed just because I am not part of whatever social media in-group lays down the law. I think badgerbadger was very astute in pointing out there is a big split here between people who spend a lot of time on social media and people who don’t. I carefully pick the media I consume because I don’t have the energy for all the petty, dogmatic wars that erupt in certain corners of the net. I like walking sims and adventure games. I want to travel, I want to meet new people, I want to have dialog, I want to hear stories. I don’t want to fight. Guess that makes me a stooge. Oh well.
To those of you on this forum who were also fellow commenters on the main site, thanks for the years of funny pun threads and enlightening discussion. For now, I am out.