The more I look back over the comments on this post, you know the one, the one I wrote about already, the more I think I reacted poorly. And, well, I’m sure I did, as all my reactions were emotional reactions, either a “ouch I’m hurt” reaction or a “I offended you, I’m bad, I’m sorry” reaction. Neither of which made me react in a way that was at all constructive.
Honestly I’m not sure how to be constructive in a situation like that. The people involved were obviously looking for something to be offended about rather than trying to understand my experiences. Maybe I should have ignored it all together, but it really really hurt me, so much so that I felt I had to respond in some way. If only I could get them to understand what I actually meant… but rationally I knew that nothing I said would change their minds, and so I went for the other route: apologize until they realize it was unintentional. Well, that didn’t do me any good either.
Something that helped me yesterday after this first started was a piece by Madeline H. Wyndzen a transsexual psychologist titled Why are Trassexuals so mean to each other? which applies not because I’m a transsexual (I think I’ve made that clear) but because the reaction that she’s talking about is actually pretty universal, and I think transsexual people react this way to someone who is outside gender lines as well.
This is my first interaction that I can think of where a post of mine offended someone enough for them to personally attack me. I’ve gotten personal attacks before, but never on my blog, never on the subject of my gender, and never due to me being offensive to someone else. I tend to be hypersensitive toward others, which is why something like this is such a blow to me when it happens because I tend to err on the side of caution. I’ve made mistakes before, sure, and I’ve misspoken, but never to the point of being so blatantly attacked.
Looking back, one big thing I would do differently is I would stand my ground more firmly. I wasn’t appropriating trans experience by using the same language. I wasn’t even close to that, they chose to interpret my words that way. By saying I have cissexual privilege somehow that makes it okay for them to ridicule me but not okay for me to use similar language or identify with a quote from someone who was not even considering transitioning when he wrote it? Would my gender issues be more valid if I transitioned? Probably in their eyes.
What does claiming to have a more difficult time being marginalized compared to other marginalized groups get us? Nothing. No, wait, it gets us squabbling within groups that should be supportive rather than the support that the people within the groups actually need.
I do find it ironic that the first attacking comment made to me focused on telling me that I failed at my gender. What trans person doesn’t hear that at some point in their life? The gender failure was partially intentional as every gender fails, all gender is drag, and no gender is perfect, which is something I enjoy playing up when possible.
I also find it ironic that I was told that the gender I feel on the inside isn’t real by a trans person. Let me say that again: a trans person told me that the gender I feel on the inside is not real. Um… does anyone else see the obvious flaw here?
This brings me back to Why are Trassexuals so mean to each other? by Madeline H. Wyndzen. Her big point is that it’s a defense mechanism, one quote which is particularly apt is: “a lot of us feel this need to put others down in order to feel better about ourselves. And many of us are hypersensitive to ‘criticism’ so we can often misread an innocuous remark as though it was saying something invalidating about us personally.” It’s easy to read something offensive into something when you’re looking for it to be offensive or if you are hypersensitive to anything that might possibly be offensive if taken the wrong way.
Another thing she said also rang true for this situation: “if anybody really bothered to challenge if I’m a “real girl” or a “real transsexual”, I would just go “whatever” and think they really need to get a grip and not waste so much of their time deciding what I ‘really’ am.” Basically, why do they even care that I’m using the same language? Why does it matter to them what I call myself or don’t call myself? Shouldn’t that only matter to me?
As Elizabeth pointed out in the comments of my last post, this issue wasn’t actually a misunderstanding and that probably the best thing to have done in the situation was not to engage them, especially since I knew it wouldn’t do any good.
Gabe has helped me come to the ideas in this post as well, mostly to make me realize how bad it was of me to give in like I did, essentially placating anything that they said to appease them rather than standing my ground. He was nice about it, probably nicer than he should have been.
I have a tendency to roll over and give someone anything they want if they are telling me I offended them. I will do just about anything to try to make them not hate me, as that is something that hurts me inside and out, it’s not rational, but it’s the way I work. Like I said above, I reacted in a “I offended you, I’m bad, I’m sorry” way which was not at all constructive.
Overall if I had to do it again there would be many differences, at least in theory. I’m not sure, should something like this happen again (and, let’s face it, it’s the internet and a touchy subject so it’s bound to happen again), I’m not sure I could actually disregard my automatic “coddle and appease until they don’t hate me” reaction, but maybe I’ll remember this situation and at very least wait to respond until I have something better to say, or just not respond at all.
*quote from House Season 4 Episode 11 “Frozen.” Used because I tend to be hypersensitive to the feelings of others, and often nice beyond the realm of necessity.Possibly related posts: