UPDATE: Cinderella has deleted most of the comments from this piece, including both the comments critical of her, and her own comments which were being critiqued in this piece and elsewhere. Most of them, however, have been archived in these screenshots. Thanks to A. Noyd for the link.
I don’t even know where to begin.
Cinderella’s post itself is bad enough, with the “What the HELL are these people feeling” astonishment, and the “she just really acted like a boy” comments about her female trans roommate, and the rigidly stereotyped ideas about gender roles. Not to mention the whole “She even liked girls. Even though she was a girl. So she was gay too.” thing. As if being a woman who likes woman made you some sort of astonishing freak of nature and called your whole gender identity into question. And, of course, there’s the entire attitude of, “I don’t understand this, so instead of doing a little homework and finding out how trans people feel about gender, I’m going to speculate out loud in my blog about what the HELL these people are feeling.”
But what really struck me was how she reacted in the comments — when a whole lot of trans people flooded in to tell her how badly she had fucked up and why. Rather than taking a step back and saying, “Whoa, I didn’t mean to step on any toes, but clearly I did, what the hell did I do wrong here,” instead Cinderella got defensive and angry; blamed the trans people for misunderstanding her and hurting her feelings; literally blamed the trans people for their own injuries and accused them of making their lives worse through their own attitudes (I wish I was kidding); insisted that trans people aren’t disadvantaged (again — wish I was kidding); patronizingly advised them on how to speak about their own experience and indeed how to experience it in the first place; and actually said they were like “little children.”
I wanted to comment on the blog post itself, but the commenting system there is cumbersome to the point of being impossible for me to use. So I’m posting my comment here instead. Note: This principle doesn’t just apply to cis people talking about trans people. It applies to white people talking about people of color; straight people talking about LGB people; men talking about women; pretty much anyone from any privileged group talking about people in a marginalized group.
If lots of trans people are enormously upset by what you’ve written, then maybe you screwed it up. Maybe you are marginalizing trans people, even if you didn’t mean to. Maybe they read something into your blog something that was there, even if you didn’t mean it to be. Maybe you did hurt people — actually, no “maybe” about it, clearly you did — even if you didn’t mean to.
There’s a saying among people who write about privilege: Intention is not magic. Good intentions are obviously better than bad intentions — but good intentions are not a magic wand that turn anything you say or do into gold. And they are not a magic shield that protects you from criticism when you screw up.
If you write about trans people, and a whole lot of trans people say that you screwed it up, then the chances are excellent that you screwed it up. Now is not the time to get defensive and insist that they’re getting it wrong. Now is not the time to make it all about you, and how hurt your feelings are over being misunderstood. The shit that trans people go through over their gender identity is a lot more important than your hurt feelings. Now is the time to shut up, listen, and think.