Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed: TDoR Still Fails Trans Women of Color

Content warning: Discussion of suicide and ostracism of trans women, significant fatphobic hatespew is involved on the part of Andrea James. Proceed with appropriate caution if this might cause you pain.

It’s with a heavy heart that once again I address all of you before yet another Transgender Day of Remembrance that still  fails trans women of color, fails trans victims of suicide, and directly refuses to count trans people killed by police and in custody. TDoR remains a day dedicated to dividing our community, an already divided and fractious community, rather than bringing us together. Yes, this is directly related to the insular and panicked community we have, but it’s also connected to the problem behind TDoR itself: its “ownership” by Gwen Smith, whose refusal to discuss race on the official TDoR site along with her somewhat narrow choices as to what deaths do and don’t matter, strangles the opportunity for TDoR to do better.  It’s time for trans women of color to boycott TDoR, because it’s a minstrel show.

I’ve talked about Gwen Smith’s mismanagement of TDoR (and claim of “ownership”) before and on my old blog I tried to strike a more conciliatory tone, but nothing has changed since 2012 when that entry was published. Other people smarter than I have talked about it, too, and they echo almost identical concerns. Unfortunately, because Ms. Smith has positioned herself as beyond dialogue, it’s impossible to talk about why choosing not to discuss race on the ‘official” TDoR site that local TDoR events use leads to individual events that don’t talk about race….and what does it say about us that reading a list of dead that are mostly dead trans women of color is an ‘event’?  It’s impossible to discuss that deaths of trans people (again disproportionately trans people of color) at the hands of police or in a correctional system that tortures trans people (especially trans women) need to be counted as part of any memory of our dead who were murdered, but Ms. Smith doesn’t count those deaths, nor discuss that criticism when it’s made.

Or perhaps only “important” trans people are able to make any criticism. After all, the ‘trans community’ is devoted to remaining as Whites Only as humanly possible and often slagging off the struggle of some trans people as acceptable losses, which says a lot about community priorities. I think that in this world of manufactured scarcity in the ‘trans community’ that what actually ends up happening is the belief that only certain voices are valid and this creates a situation where trans women target each other trying to be “important”. If you’ve seen Andrea James’ consistent harassment of Parker Molloy, harassment based on things like body size, no shock given what a raging fatphobe Ms. James has shown herself to be, you’ve got a fine example of someone engaging in just this kind of bullying in reply to Parker’s criticism. Now, I’ve argued with Parker, I don’t cosign everything she’s done, and we don’t see eye to eye on everything, but I value her voice and disagree with Andrea James’ apparent desire to silence her.  Ms. James is acting in a manner that implies that there is no space for dissenting voices that don’t toe her HBSer line as public figures, and her harassment about shallow things like Ms. Molloy’s weight and appearance really shows exactly what Ms. James’ priorities are.

So what the hell does this have to do with Ms. Smith deciding she’s above criticism? Well, we have a narrow, strangled community because of how closed it is to people who are something besides “just trans.” If you’re disabled, you’re unwelcome. If you’re a person of color, you’re unwelcome. I call this the “Ingersoll Effect”, named for the hateful nest of vipers which is the point of entry into “trans community” here in Seattle and whose support group is pretty much openly and proudly abusive to almost everyone. It keeps the people who are “known enough” to have a place at the table very abled, very white, and very closed. As I have for the past two years, I emailed the people in charge of the TDoR in Seattle, the ones who claim not to have organizing meetings that people have bloody mentioned going to, and once again this year got silence, most likely because of the ‘who the fuck are you’ effect that is furthered by actions like Gwen Smith believing she’s above discussion with the hoi polloi. Now, to be abundantly clear hereI don’t want to be important, nor am I asking to be…I just want to participate. I want my being disabled to not mark me as lesser, I want the fact that I’m not white and that my body cant meet Caucasian-Western-Northern cishet beauty expectations to not be seen as a mortal sin by trans community. The fact remains that our community remains homogenous and closed because of people like Ms. Smith and Ms. James and tinpot tyrants who decide who is and isn’t “good enough” in community spaces around the country, and there’s an unfortunate cost to community being closed to newcomers: being shut out of spaces is killing us.

(As a personal aside, it’s come pretty close to killing me. One of my attempts came about as a result of a particularly savage mocking at the hands of an Ingersoll facilitator, who called me “it” and spent five minutes informing me in front of the group what a horrible, ugly person I was…just because I went there to ask for a list of safe doctors to see for a trans woman, information I was informed I had to go to Ingersoll meetings to obtain. I didn’t get that information. The scathing, venomous rejection from the community that’s allegedly yours is the most painful and hateful rejection that there is, and the fact that Ingersoll keeps talking about inclusion but never actually bothers to change is a very sad statement on how much we’re willing to accept savage, cruel treatment of our own kinfolk.)

It’s killing us by a lack of access to medical care, a lack of access to community resources, and oh yes, it’s killing us because we kill ourselves. Trans suicide, unlike the other deaths reported and unreported by TDoR, is still structural violence, and unlike this other structural violence, it hits all sorts of trans people, from white CAFAB nonbinaries on down to trans women of color. There’s no good suicide statistics, but I certainly hear plenty about suicides of trans women as more numerous than suicides of trans men, but it keeps happening across the board. The primary reason is a transphobic/transmisogynist world, but “Men’s Rights” types and their kin radical fauxminists are especially willing to harass trans women, and the specific harassment of trans women from within by HBSers and their New Separatist ilk reinforce this toxicity and make trans women who don’t fit a narrow “acceptable” narrative, body type, and economic status rampantly unwelcome. Just like transphobic violence affects all trans people but disproportionately affects disabled trans women and trans women of color, our suicides are aided and abetted by both outside factors that hate women of color, like the aforementioned MRAs and radfauxs, as well as our own ‘trans community’ rejecting us in life and crying over us in death.  The very suicides that Ms. Smith refuses to count follow the same pattern as the homicides Ms. Smith counts…as well as the ones she doesn’t count. The message is very clear: that we’re disposable, that we’re acceptable losses.

TDoR generally sees trans women of color as acceptable losses as a central part of the minstrel show that it is. You can’t have a list of dead trans people without it mostly being dead trans women of color with a significant scattering of disabled trans women, too. This common thread between trans suicide and homicides of trans people is no accident, because the violence of rejection may not be the same force of violence that comes from a killer’s blade, but it’s violence nevertheless, and that violence drives some people to suicide. That violence, unlike the violence of a killer, is tolerated and even encouraged in our community. From Ryan Blackhawke’s since-deleted libelous comments complaining about last year’s version of this article to Andrea James’ harassment to the exclusionary nature of the only spaces trans women have (spaces like Ingersoll) comes this violence, and it needs to stop.

TDoR is still broken and still fails trans women of color. Gwen Smith still keeps the list manicured and controlled for whatever political purpose she’s aiming for, refusing to discuss race on the official site of TDoR itself, a day Ms. Smith continues to claim to “own”, and she hasn’t shown any willingness to change the reprehensible fact that deaths in custody don’t count when trans women are frequently targets of police harassment which disproportionately affects trans women of color, which leads to the logical conclusion that we’re more likely to be victims of police and governmental violence. She hasn’t expanded discussion of race, encouraged local TDoR ‘events’ to discuss race, or done much besides leave a snippy comment that I didn’t approve last year linking to one tweet about it. One tweet, brothers, sisters, and non-gendered brethren.  Ms. Smith still isn’t counting suicides, or talking about what leads to trans suicides, probably because that would require looking within to the white ‘trans community’ power structure that enables her community’s exclusion as being just as complicit in these suicides as family rejection, medical access issues, employment difficulties, and toxic MRA/radfaux harassment.

It’s time for trans women of color to boycott TDoR and I implore trans people of color to boycott in sympathy and because you’re being ignored by Ms. Smith et al until your deaths are politically useful also. Enough is enough, and we need to be welcome in life in the ‘trans community’ 365 days a year, not just in death. If you’re white, I say go, and make an unholy stink about race if it isn’t discussed, but if you want to boycott too, just make sure the local organizers know why. If race is discussed, and they’re doing a good job (I hear the TDoR down in Tacoma has done well on this, for example), let it be known, because that’s good. But let Gwen Smith know, too, because her refusal to discuss all of these things taints TDoR. It’s time for Ms. Smith to be thanked for her past service, and pass the torch along to the trans women of color whose deaths she’s used for political gain for years. It’s time for ‘trans community’ to include us, not just use us for a once-a-year Dead Trans Women of Color minstrel show.

See, you can’t have a minstrel show without a cast, and we ain’t gonna dance for you anymore, Ms. Smith.

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#GamerGate? More like #GamersWhoHate, amirite?

Content warning: This post addresses “Men’s Rights Activist” bullshit and the  pro-patriarchy white supremacist, misogynist, and especially transmisogynist positions inherent to MRAs. Links may go to places you might not want to go, so you’re duly warned. It also contains links to my old blog, where I used an acronym I choose to not use anymore to refer to radical fauxminists.

In the past month and a half or so, the “#Gamergate movement” has risen to pretty much dominate Twitter with its…well, I have no idea what the hell GamerGate is about. It claims to be about “ethics in games journalism” (but can’t be arsed to take on MetaCritic, if you know what I mean, since they’re too busy harassing women) but in practice has actually been about harassing women and minorities online, especially those of us in gaming. #GamerGate, though claiming to be leaderless, is centered around the MRA hate movement  (and MRAs themselves are patting themselves on the back for it...) and seems to be serving the ends that Misogyny Reinforcing Assholes work for: white supremacy, subjugation of women, and trying to bring about some bizarre Gorean RP of 1950s “White Suburbia” in the US. GamerGate also has shamelessly leveraged this anonymity to ensure maximal infliction of terror and minimal accountability for that terror. It’s a sort of leveling up of MRA rhetoric to use this anonymity as part of their harassment campaign, but it also leads to an ability to claim MRAs have nothing to do with it when it suits them.

GamerGate has a side movement called #NotYourShield that is either the most incorrect use of the term “not” in history or proof that a bunch of self-described gamers is unable to understand shield mechanics. While there are some actual users who embraced NYS so that they could serve as GamerGate’s shield for some reason or another, it’s largely a manufactured movement courtesy of 4chan. The mass sockpuppetry that NYS brings us with a handful of actual accounts that have been around for a while leads one to doubt what the actual intent is, which seems to be to be thrown out as extant whenever one criticizes the wholesale and toxic misogyny of GamerGate. And while we’re at it, the presence of women in NotYourShield, the ones that aren’t sockpuppets that is, is conditional on embrace of MRA theology and GamerGate’s harassment…you can’t challenge that. In other words, a hashtag claiming not to be a shield is in fact the people being used as one. Pretty sneaky, GamerGate.

So if that’s not bad enough, now that GamerGate has flooded the internet with its demands for “ethics in gaming journalism” (which still haven’t been clearly stated, other than whining about Kotaku) some of its architects are actually admitting it was about harassing women. There’s GamerGate’s “based lawyer”, a massively misogynist, transmisogynist, ablest, fatphobic tool named Mike Cernovich. And then there’s the rampant anti-Semitism present in GamerGate to the point they’re riffing on actual Nazi propaganda to libel Anita Sarkeesian. And there’s the time they tried to take over tables belonging to a reserved party having nothing to do with GamerGate at Ground Kontrol, a barcade in Portland. Oh, and a whole bunch of Twitter accounts that responded to GamerGate harassment got suspended for “spamming”, but there’s no proof that despite the complete correlation between people responding to their harassment getting suspended that it actually was GamerGate. It’s just a curious, curious coincidence. In the past week, GamerGate has become more aware than ever that it’s circling the drain now that even its own adherents admit it’s about harassing women and copying and pasting thoroughly debunked lies about Zoe Quinn.

I’m a woman. I play games. I’m the best damn resto shammy on my server. I knew how Skyrim’s main questline ended like a week before anyone else I know. I used to play tabletop, but lack a venue and safe place for that, and my local friends aren’t into that sort of thing. I’m also a trans woman, and have been a pretty constant target for MRA shittiness since I started writing my first blog. I consider MRAs to be equivalent to radical fauxminists in their thirst for the blood of trans women, and the wholesale and repeatedly documented transmisogyny of the “Men’s Rights” movement is at this point indisputable. Unlike radical fauxminists, a fringe movement that claims that advancing pro-patriarchy ends in the guise of feminism as ‘feminist’, this is the bloody mainstream of the “Men’s Rights” movement, their sacred leaders who dispense MRA theology. (They’re rampantly hateful toward lesbians, too. Oh, and they’re saying trans men are the same as lesbians. Grossbuckets!)  There have been some highly misguided trans women who believe that following MRA theology, even as it degenders us and yet subjects us to the same misogynistic hate as all women, makes sense. I guess that’s the same sort of anger that leads trans women who engage in allegedly “gender-critical” pro-patriarchy fauxminism to punch down on other trans women and some cis women leads people down the garden path holding hands with the MRAs who work hard to wipe us out. I mean, MRAs, radical fauxminists, HBSers…it’s the same hate.

So why do I say this? Well, it’s because GamerGate is a special threat to trans women beyond just a threat to women in general since it’s basically an MRA recruiting event, and a lot of us who are trans women are gamers. In fact, there’s been some serious exploration of the idea that gaming worlds are the first places many of us explore our gender identity and safer spaces for us to occupy. It wasn’t for me personally, but I can relate, as the only characters I really “RP” (that’s roleplaying for you non-gamer sorts) are male characters because I’ve been intensely interested with how much differently people treat someone they assume to be a gent, and because come on, tauren all look pretty gender-neutral and you can make “mess with the bull” jokes much more easily.

Alright, now that I’ve exhausted my clutch of WoW in-jokes (…did someone say [Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker]?), it’s time to be real: the MRA-led harassment campaign that is GamerGate affects all women, but has a disparate impact on trans women. In fact, some of the most specifically acidic harassment and most liberally dispensed death threats by this MRA hate campaign have been implying that one of their harassment targets is a trans woman. It’s not my place to address if she’s trans or not, but that’s because it’s none of my goddamn business and it don’t make the death threats she’s received any different.  Separately, GamerGate is harassing an out trans game dev, too. GamerGate is defined by and holds misogyny as one of its core values, so transmisogyny being part of their game too? This shouldn’t surprise anyone with a pulse…or any lich, for that matter.

It’s time to stand up and present a united front, queers in general and trans people in specific: GamerGate is a toxic and execrable hate campaign to drive women who don’t fall in line with MRA theology out of gaming, no more, no less. This is bad for all women, and especially bad for women who MRA theology targets in particular: trans women, lesbians, sex workers, and women of color, but don’t think for a second that MRA theology is anything less than toxic to all women, and possibly even some men, as their reverence for patriarchy and boundless hate for anyone who doesn’t follow them unquestioningly has overflowed into a movement that uses its leaderless, structureless nature to terrorize the people that MRAs hate. It’s time to say no to GamerGate and MRA hate alike, because this is a movement born and raised to hurt women, and in particular marginalized women, and tell us gaming isn’t for us. There’s nothing “ethical” about that, and there’s nothing “ethical” about GG’s MRA core’s desire: dominion and control over yet another space.

We say no. And we all know how much MRAs love it when you say no, but we say no.