Monday, August 15, 2016

PB&J - Take 2

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

Last week you may remember I shared a video with you of comedian/magician Justin Willman that had been posted to Facebook under the heading “Magician perfectly destroys anti-transgender bathroom argument in 2 know, for the kids,” and gave my response.  It was a long blog post (if you haven’t seen it yet, you can find it HERE), and I put it up and sort of waited for a response.
Thankfully I didn’t have long to wait, because what I posted was apparently quite a poorly-written blog entry, to the point that people I talked to had received a very different message than the one I thought I was putting out.
My immediate temptation was to pull the post down: I call myself a writer, I should be able to communicate my ideas clearly, and that I did not is more than a little embarrassing. Rather than do that, however, I’ve chosen to leave the post in place to remind myself that I can make this kind of error. Instead I received permission from a couple of people to reproduce our conversations here. Hopefully sharing these Q&As will clarify my position a little better than I did last week.
First, I had my “clear as mud” writing style inadvertently pointed out to me by my friend, T.T.:

T.T.: As a parent, I understand your concerns. As you said, it's a small percentage of the overall population that is the problem, these are the ones that have us in fear, not the subset of a subset.
I will also add that I have never heard of a transgendered person assaulting a child in a bathroom. Maybe it's happened, but it's not on my radar. It could be me, but unless it's acutely obvious, I'm usually oblivious to the fact that someone is transgender. It doesn't matter to me if they are jelly or peanut butter so maybe that is the basis of my opinion that they should use the bathroom they identify with.
I truly believe that transgendered people are born into the wrong sex and they are attempting to make peace with themselves. I don't believe they are sex fiends looking for an excuse to assault young children. I don't believe they have turbo charged sex drives or sex fueled fantasies that target children. To be honest, if my young son was in a bathroom alone with either a transgendered man or a older man who spouts gospel or dispenses hate at those he considers unnatural, I'd be more concerned about the older man.
But, again, that's just me, and I understand that others feel differently.
· August 9 at 8:59am
Rob:  I've never heard of a transgender person assaulting a child in the bathroom either, and that was really my point. Are there sickos out there? Yes. Do they have anything to do with the transgender community? Not to my knowledge, no. But by failing to make that distinction and merely saying "that's not what it's about," I think that to people who are focused solely on the fear, people who aren't making that distinction for themselves, he's going to come off as saying "you people are idiots, you're afraid of nothing" rather than showing them that in this situation they're actually afraid of the wrong people.
· August 9 at 9:20am · Edited
Rob:  What's really bothering me, here, is that you, T. T., seem to have received a message opposite to what I intended. And I'm not saying *you* are bothering me, but I'm concerned that I may have communicated poorly.
· August 9 at 9:36am
T.T.: I admit I was confused by your answer to my post. For some reason, I had the opposite impression. It might just be me, that I didn't comprehend your message, and not that you communicated it poorly.
· August 9 at 10:00am
Rob  No, I don't think you're the only one responding that way. Just for the record, you got from my actual blog post last night that I'm anti-transgender?
August 9 at 10:09am
T.T.: No. What I took from it was that there was a concern about transgender people using bathrooms that were not intended for their birth sex. That the concern, unfounded or not, was valid.
August 9 at 10:34am
Rob:  Hmm. I need to stick to fiction. I got it halfway there and dropped the ball. For the record, no, I don't think that concern is valid.
· August 9 at 10:39am
Rob:  And thank you, T.T., for even inadvertently letting me know I was actually *that* unclear.
August 9 at 10:49am
T.T.: I'm sorry, Rob. I hope it was just me.
August 9 at 11:17am
Rob:  No, it wasn't. But hopefully I can fix this.
· August 9 at 11:43am
So I did sit down and try to think of a way to fix this. What should I do, post a clarification? Take another stab at explaining my position? Then, while I was pondering, another friend, D.N. started asking just the questions I felt I needed to answer:

D.N.: A couple of things come to my mind after reading this.... first, as a coach/instructor, you were in a "better" position to abuse your charges than you are as a stranger. Kids have stranger danger drilled into them, as you said, but are actually more at risk with adults they know and trust. Nothing against you specifically, of course; this is just fact.

Secondly, if you're worried about your 6 year old daughter in the ladies' room at the park, go in there with her. I'll bet most women would react fine, or wait, if you said you were in there with her. Or take her to the men's room. But don't send her in alone unless it's a single stall.

We can't let the fear of predators allow us to force people to live in ways that are damaging to them. 41% of transgender people attempt suicide. You know what brings that number down in line with the cis population? Acceptance. Acceptance by their families, friends, and neighbors. Being allowed to pee in peace. Being allowed to present the way they want to without being policed for not passing as cis.

I know you're on their side. I just don't understand how the magician is part of the problem now.
· August 8 at 10:57pm

Rob:  Okay, D.N., I waited a while to respond to you, and I'm glad I did. From another comment I received, and then some questions I asked of people who I knew read my blog without commenting, I've come to the conclusion that I wasn't nearly as clear as I thought I was―and that's on me as a writer, I'm not trying to push it off and say "you all just don't understand me." It's fairly embarrassing, really.

You finished your comment with a question, and your question was actually the entire point of what I was trying to say, so if I was muddy there then the whole thing just kind of falls apart. How is the magician part of the problem?

Basically, I think he has a great message―I love his message―but I think his delivery method is flawed.
· August 9 at 12:51pm

Rob:  I'm really talking about his target audience. His message isn't aimed at you, or even me, for that matter: it's aimed at people who "don't get it," as he puts it. If he's really talking to kids, then his obvious anger and reference to "fucking idiots" are a little out of place; he's really aimed this message at the people dead set against transgender folks being able to use the restroom designated for their sexual orientation rather than their physical sexuality because they are afraid. One of the things they are afraid of, and it's a biggie, is sexual predators.

Now you know, and I know, that has *nothing* to do with the transgender community. But there are still people out there―a *lot* of people, though just one would be too many―who equate anything different as deviant, and anything not like them as bad. Lots of people still have "transgender" locked up in the same mental storage space as "pervert," and "predator," and they don't see a whole lot of difference between them. It's shitty, and I pity people as close-minded as that, but it's sadly true.

Dammit, my lunch is over. I'm not done, but I'll be back here later.
· August 9 at 5:40pm ·Edited

Rob:  Okay, it's been over four hours; let me see if I can pick up my train of thought.

So he does a detailed job of explaining what transgender *is*, but when he comes to the part of the video where he might point out that those close-minded people's fear is misplaced, he calls them fucking idiots and dismisses their concern in a single sentence, spoken with anger and sarcasm. I don't care what the argument is, if someone tells you you're a fucking idiot and bushes your concerns aside you're a lot less likely to listen to what they're trying to tell you. You're going to be insulted at the name-calling and angered at the apparent dismissal of your concern. He started out making a wonderful, easily understood point, but then sabotaged himself with his target audience.

I'm stopping here for now, in case I'm muddling myself again.
· August 9 at 6:33pm ·Edited

D.N.: Nope, no muddling this time! He becomes part of the problem by not actually addressing fears with facts. And in fact, actually insulting the "dear reader." I hear you. The insult was way off base if he wanted to get people not already on board to listen. I agree.

Thank you for taking so much extra time to talk through this with me. You know i worry about my lemon-marmalade in a peanut butter jar. 😉
· August 9 at 8:45pm

D.N.: Oh, my confusion was around thinking your issue was with the fact that we can't look inside the jars in real life. That we have no better way of handling it than taking someone's word on their gender identity, as we do with sexual identity, or religious affiliation.
· August 9 at 8:48pm

Rob:  Yes, that too. We can't. And in this situation there will be people who lie about their gender identity as a way to hide the fact that they have a head full of bad wiring. These are the same people the public has *always* been afraid of, the Stranger Danger people, that the "fucking idiots," to use his phrase, are lumping the transgender together with through laziness, ignorance, or a combination of the two. That's terrible, and sad, and makes people angry, I know, but solving that won't be as simple as opening a jar. That's the part of the problem that I think becomes the most complicated.
· August 9 at 9:11pm

Rob:  The whole Stranger Danger mentality (and I'm not going to lie, I have it as well) is about looking for the untrustworthy hiding in the midst of the trustworthy. Transgender people have become a very visible group of Strangers in the simplest sense of the word: they are different. Don't get me wrong, we're all different―I, the cis male, have more in common, I think, with several gay people I know and at least one transgender person I know, than my own cis male cousins from down south. But in the minds of the "different from me is bad" thinking people, the emerging transgender culture (is that a thing, or do I just sound old?) is giving them a very visible group of "different" to focus on.
· August 9 at 9:20pm

D.N.: Yeah. It is complicated. I wish it weren't, but that did seem to be how goes, doesn't it? Pithy comments just can't capture reality.
· August 9 at 9:22pm

Rob:  Yeah. I hate complicated. And that's the part that he (Justin) seemed to be saying was *so* simple. It's simple to him, but not to the people he needs to convince.
· August 9 at 9:24pm

Rob:  Sorry: not to the people *we* need to convince.
· August 9 at 9:24pm

D.N.: Hrm... did you see that map that says there are 11 cultural Americas (US)? It makes sense that you have more in common with other people in the Northeast (I'm assuming) than with Southerners.

And, yes, trans people have replaced gay and lesbian people in the pariah column. Not that I think LGB are really fully accepted yet, but it's still legal to persecute the T in many places.
· August 9 at 9:26pm

Rob:  Would I be out of line suggesting unisex bathrooms? They're not a new concept―I mean, come on, am I the *only* one left who ever watched an episode of Ally McBeal? ;)
· August 9 at 9:27pm

D.N.: Nope, not out of line at all. And that helps people who fall outside the binary too!
· August 9 at 9:28pm

Rob:  Okay, I have to pack up this Chromebook and head for home. Thank you for asking your questions. This is why I write fiction: that I can keep straight in my head, apparently, but when I try to write about anything important I have floating around in here I do a damn poor job. I appreciate your showing me where I was muddled, and letting me clarify what I was trying to say, rather than just assuming I was an asshole.
· August 9 at 9:32pm

Rob:  I may still be an asshole, but at least I'm being clear about it. :D
· August 9 at 9:33pm

D.N. Have a great night!
· August 9 at 9:33pm

There. Much clearer! Still, if anyone has any questions from last week’s post, please don’t hesitate to ask, either here or on Facebook.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back and look at last week’s post. Maybe I can figure out where I went wrong.
Next week we should return to our regular, somewhat goofy programming.

Talk to you later!

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