It troubles me at times as I observe the more fractious among our wider community in the real world, on forums, and in the blogosphere, that I am witnessing behaviour that can only be damaging. I've been through several stages in my reaction to the squabbles of others, through annoyance and depression and back to annoyance again, but now I am just sad to witness disparate factions tearing themselves apart. It doesn't have to be this way.
You may well have seen last week's T-Central poll. It was a course of action we decided upon in response to some very personal invective directed at one of our number, and it concerned our deletion policy. It was interesting to read some of the responses to it from other bloggers. I posted fairly similar explanatory comments in my usual (I hope) reasoned style on the blogs criticising our action and was rather unsurprised when some of them weren't published. Now who's the censor.
A few people said they would have done things differently. Someone suggested splitting up the T-Central list into categories. I don't think that would work, not enough space on the page and a nightmare alphabet soup of definitions to contend with. With my wicked sense of humour I wondered whether three categories would suffice, The Trannies, The Definitely-Not-Trannies, and The Trannier-Than-Thou. But that, though mildly amusing, would not be appropriate. It would put me firmly among those who prompted the poll, because it would make me guilty of a lack of respect.
Important word, respect. Sometimes I think we don't see enough of it hereabouts.
Respect is about separating who someone is from what they are. Simple, isn't it. The what concerns identity and path, the who concerns personality and actions. By all means attack someone for their who, but leave their what out of it. Because who concerns the individual while what concerns everyone else like them. Insult a whole group in your attack on an individual, and respect has long departed from the equation.
Might I propose a rule of thumb in this sphere?
If you wouldn't go somewhere in the context of a natal man or woman, don't do so in the context of a trans man, woman, genderqueer, androgyne or other identity. Whatever they are. People are different, get over it.
If I meet a natal man or woman in the street or at work, I do not metaphorically peer into their underwear to speculate on their genitals. Even though there is an extremely wide variation in naturally occurring genitalia of both varieties. I don't question their gender identity, they are presenting as male or female therefore I accept them as such. Though I may sometimes privately question their sartorial choices I don't attack their appearance either. Some natal women are ugly, have hairy arms, or big feet.
And similarly if I meet a trans man or woman I don't attack their paths. I don't misgender them and I don't get inside their underwear. It matters not to me what they get up to in the bedroom or whether or not they have forgone the ability to write their names in the snow. I would prefer people didn't behave this way towards me, so why should I think I can do it to someone else? We are all different in this sphere, and while I often see paths which I think are unwise I express my reservations privately. Identities are myriad and personal, and are not to be turned into pejoratives.
If however I meet someone who is an arsehole, I will treat them accordingly. Because being an arsehole is about the who, not the what. I will respect them to the extent that the language you will see me using here will be lucid and not profane, but I have no worries about attacking them on the basis of being an arsehole. Being an arsehole is independent of identity.
Part of me feels rather sad that I feel I have to write this piece. To enumerate what should be self-evident, particularly within a minority all of whose members are likely to have experienced such a lack of respect from outsiders.
But then again I guess there are arseholes everywhere. I'm sure none of you would wish to be among them though, would you.