Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Chalicechick goes Internet Shitgibbon: An open letter to a writer at the UU World

(If you're a non-Unitarian friend of mine reading this because you like me, cool. Thanks!  But this might get boring quick.  The backstory here is that our usually on-point denominational magazine had an article about trans issues written by a cis woman with trans relations.  The author seemed to think her story was the important part and said some really offensive things.  My trans friends are trying to be super nice about it, I don't have to be.)

The article I'm talking about

A person whom I like and respect and who can out themselves if they so chose is preparing a response to the UU World article and specifically said that they don't want to be an internet shitgibbon toward the author.  As a trans person who works in UUism professionally, they are smart to be so careful.

I'm a ciswoman with trans family, putting myself in exactly the writer's position.  Further, UU congregations don't pay any of my bills.

So I'm going to return to the Chaliceblog's roots of saying what I damn well please.

So, UU World writer, let's detail the ways you fucked up.

1. The article was all about you. 
Ok, so you've got some transfolks in your family.  You took a while to come around to some of the concepts that are central to "transfolks are human and have a right to self-determination and your opinion about that self-determination isn't as mission critical as you might think."

Cool, cool.

Ok, more like "Suboptimal, suboptimal," but I get it, I've been there.

Thing is, I did not treat my own personal fuckups as:
1. A greater issue for UUism
2. Universal among cis people
3. Trans folks' responsibility to deal with
4. A good subject for a lengthy and self-pitying article* in the denominational magazine.


You're a big fish in what has to be a very small pond at your publication.  You TOTALLY could have said "Hey, maybe a trans person should be writing this."  Your decision not to do so is baffling to me, particularly since well-known trans folks in the denomination advised you to do exactly that.  Sometimes the best way to be an ally is to hand over the mic.  This would have been a good opportunity to do that.  You chose not to--why?  Is the story of your personal struggles really the one you thought our denomination needed to hear?

2. You have some boundary issues
First off, please stop thinking so much about your family members' genitals.  If we learned nothing else from Margaret Mead, we should know that doing so is creepy and weird.  Volunteering information about your own genitals is not something members of polite society do, this goes double for asking other people about theirs, and like quintuple if they're kin.

Can you accept that there's stuff that's none of your business?

Even more central: there's stuff that's none of the rest of the world's business. 

You can't change the name of your kid, admit they are your kid, and pretend you've given them any privacy.   Calvin Trillin once said that he stopped writing about his kids because adolescence is hard enough.  I don't know your trans relations, but I'd bet cash money their lives are hard enough.  Knock it off.

3. Get the fuck over the pronoun thing
If you have trouble doing so with people you love, but have no trouble saying "Someone left their phone behind, I hope they come back for it!" then address that with a therapist, not the reading UU public.

4. When trans folks talk, LISTEN
I'm writing this specifically aimed at the issues of a cis woman writing about trans relations.  Your article has MANY MORE PROBLEMS THAN THAT from a trans perspective.  Per Alex Kapitan's facebook post on the subject, you ignored the first time and several additional times you were informed of those issues.  But you're going to get a lot of mail and there's going to be a lot of writing about how just tossing gender slurs into your article and how saying someone "identifies" as what they are is shitty.  Please read those things, think about them, apply them to the way you treat other people and then...don't write about what you learn like basic human decency is an achievement for which you deserve a prize.


*If you read the Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd's kickass book "After the Good News" and have confession and atonement on the brain, you might play Rabbi Kushner and imagine there was some of that going on here.  It sounded like that to me.  But I'm not an expert.