Consciousness-raising is usually a pretty difficult thing, especially if you’re trying to become a presence in a community to which you’re only peripherally involved, and the event that inclines you toward trying to do so also gets you irritated or annoyed or angry. Given the circumstances, I think General Zoi probably did about as well as I might have managed myself.
Since it was just the three of us, we were kind of just sitting around having rather stilted conversation, waiting for other people to show up. The organizer started talking about other people who had RSVPed. I do not recall what exactly prompted him to say this, and I really wish I could, but he suddenly said, “One of the people coming is a trap. They used to be a guy.”
I looked at him. “Trap?”
“It’s from General Akbar. ‘It’s a trap!’”
“I don’t really care where it’s from. Why did you call her a trap?”
“That’s what the Internet calls them.”
“Well, it’s an offensive word, and you shouldn’t use it.”
There was a pause where the wheels were turning in his head, trying to figure out why I would possibly care what word he used to describe a transperson. “Why? Are you a trap?” he asked.
“Are you a feminist?”
“Yes, and I’m gay. All LGBT issues concern me.”
“Well, what should I call them?”
“Male to female?”
“Then call her a woman. Or a girl, if she’s younger. Or a transwoman, if you have to push the issue.”
“He still has a penis though. So it’s still technically a guy.”
“But he can still feel—I mean, he’s still technically—”
“It doesn’t matter. You can change your gender legally, you know.”
“I know that.” Pause. “Look, I’m a Christian, but I don’t have a problem with traps. I can’t tell people what decisions to make in their life.”
“It’s not really a decision you make.”
“Maybe, but trap is—”
I stood up. “This isn’t fun. I’m leaving.” And I did.
There’s a lot more. It sounds a lot like the brony community — the male-dominated fandom for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic — has something of a problem in that its participants are quickly learning that just because there’s an internet meme about something, that doesn’t make it acceptable to use.
Certain subsections of our society — the trollitariat that have made their presence felt on any post hinting even in the least little bit about feminism, for instance — have this absurd notion that judging someone for using a slur is somehow equivalent to censorship. Of course this 4chan-steeped boy was perfectly legally allowed to call the trans woman a “trap” over and over again, but his persistence resulted in alienating General Zoi, who created the now-famous Pony Creator that so many MLP memes depend on. I suspect she would have been a good person to know in the community, not only for what she could do, but for her strong stance on social issues. Too bad she was turned off of the whole fandom because of this person.
I’m not really a brony myself, despite recent posturing. I’ve seen the very first episode, and while it appealed to my video gaming side in drawing very heavily from old RPG game tropes, the show itself I could take or leave. I am, however, specifically interested in its memetic spread, and its gender-breaking appeal, and in how the community shows distinct parallels to our atheist and skeptic communities — especially in their sudden crisis of having to deal with how douchebaggery on the internet actually translates into real life. It seems this is a common challenge in community-building, and it behooves us (heh) to take our lessons where we can get them.