Roots: People Pleasing

There and Back Again: A Trans Woman’s Tale of Loving & Leaving the Gender Critical Movement

In early 2018, I found myself in a position I wasn’t accustomed to.

Everything was going right for me.

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t in poverty, I wasn’t insecure, I wasn’t dysphoric in any unbearable way, I was… happy, and optimistic about the future.

And that’s when tragedy struck.

My neighbor was violently assaulted by her domestic partner across a span of weeks that would turn into some very long, terrifying months.

I don’t have words to describe the sounds or how experiencing this violence second hand affected me as someone who suffers from PTSD.

I did what nobody did for me, including myself.

I called the police.

Of course I had concerns with taking action. Can I trust the police? Was it my place? Could this cause consequences I didn’t intend? Do I really want to get anyone in trouble? What if somebody gets hurt? What if he only becomes more violent? All of this and more was running through my head.

But then, CRACK– another massive slam as what sounds like a body being hurled against a wall rings through my ears, followed by the sound of sobbing, drawing my mind to places I never wanted to go again, and my hands to the phone.

Heart racing, I told the dispatcher what was happening. Another neighbor also called, she tells me. For reasons I don’t understand, this makes my heart race even faster. Officers will be there in about 3 minutes.

Thank God.

Heart still racing, I waited and listened as the walls shook more and more for what felt like an eternity in which I was drawn back into memories better left forgotten, of being on the receiving end of that kind of violence, of rape, of sexual coercion and abuse, of watching friends and loved ones endure similar traumas; it was like every thump compounded another layer into my own personal hell and I was trapped there with all of my tormentors at once, and remained there, even as the violence stopped and the police came and went and I, somehow, made it back to my bedroom.

Couldn’t really tell you how I got to my bedroom, I was elsewhere, but then I was there, at my keyboard, telling my boyfriend what happened.

He’d be there soon, but… now what? My heart was still racing. I wasn’t consciously trapped in eternal torment anymore, but it still felt like I was. My body was on fire and freezing cold at the same time. Not sure why I’d do something quite as irrational as I did, but I opened Twitter.

Notifications were flooded with hateful comments from a group of people from the UK I’d been arguing with about trans issues.

Someone was talking about shelters and concerns related to self-ID laws.

“Any man could say he’s a woman and abuse women in a shelter!”

(Will my neighbor be in a shelter? Could he do that to her?)

“Men like you need to keep out of women’s spaces!”

(Is she okay? Would it be okay to visit her?)

“You’ll traumatize victims just by being there! Even if you’re a mutilated man you’re still a man, we can always tell.”

My consciousness drifted back to my eternal torment again, and some piece of that message came with me. It brought me back to the moments following the times I’d been assaulted and raped, when I needed help but didn’t call, when I needed shelter but didn’t go, and somewhere deep down in that pit, I agreed with the awful things I’d just been told.

I was a monster who needed to be driven away. It was good that I didn’t call. It was good I didn’t impose myself on a shelter. It would be bad if my neighbor saw me right now, my presence could harm her if I don’t pass.

Do I pass?

All the insecurity and dysphoria pouring through me would tell you no, absolutely not, I was a mutilated freak of nature and I couldn’t let anyone see me out of fear they might see the bad man they told me was there.

I wanted it all to stop.

It all seemed somehow connected. All the violence, the trauma, the fears and concern over coercive abuse, the very real abuse that had surrounded me past and present, and the anger, hate, and vitriol of these women on Twitter. It was all entwined. All part of the same problem, the same suffering brought on by the abusers of the world.

It was easy for me to empathize.

How can I help?

Little did I know, but that question, in all its good intentions, would become a pattern I’d follow anywhere, even if it meant harm. Honestly, especially if it meant harm.

I began to think of the world in black & white; abuser & survivor– and I knew who my enemies were.

What I didn’t know then, but do know now is that I had developed a maladaptive coping mechanism, and in that moment, it overtook me for my own protection. It was my brain’s way of wincing in pain from the trauma and pulling itself away from an open, gushing wound. Better to make up lies and push me to irrational behaviors than to go back to eternal torment.

People pleasing had been a pattern I’d followed for a long time without realizing it. I’d always been a helpful and supportive person. Even when I shouldn’t, I’d jump through any hoop for anyone who needed me, and even though that led to me being taken advantage of many times, I never changed. For the most part, it was something I was well adapted to. It brought a lot of good into my life and lives around me, and though I’d had some maladaptive moments that led me to a great deal of harm, it was never so problematic as it became that night as I immersed myself into Twitter (even after my boyfriend arrived) and tried to escape my pain.

That would be the theme that would echo through my life for the next years from early 2018 to late 2019. Deep down, all I really needed was to process my trauma and heal, but I couldn’t while I was locked in this pattern, as it continuously led to re-traumatization and became more and more destructive with time.

Think of it just like a physical wound and imagine my people pleasing as me constantly picking at it, never letting it heal. That’s what this was like.

When it all started, I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d only heard of radical feminists following a brief encounter some time around 2010 and through studying feminist literary theory in my university literature program. I wasn’t at all aware of the growing movement of people who were disaffected with trans people / trans activism calling themselves Gender Critical, and the concept of a TERF was completely foreign to me, but I learned it all quickly as I began to delve into incredibly difficult, painful conversations with people who far more often than not hated me for crimes I didn’t commit.

All I knew was that survivors were concerned with threats abusers were posing. So, I listened, learned, and looked for ways to please.

In my mind, I began to represent my people pleasing efforts with bridges. I was a bridge builder, constructing pathways across some of life’s most massive gaps. You can see this in my writing of the period, in which I was fixated on crossing gaps as a theme. Gaps in the form of ideology, physical spaces, sex differences, principles, etc. I thought that if only I built strong enough bridges, those on the opposite side, who I was quickly beginning to view as sisters and brothers would come join us. But, in reality it was I who was crossing to meet them. I was changing, not them.

Coming into the conversation, I believed strongly that trans men were men and trans women were women and each deserved equal rights with their cis counterparts as each was subject to the same social forces as anyone else thought to be a man or a woman. But, as I sacrificed more and more of my principles for the sake of pleasing and began to embrace a new identity as gender critical, that began to change. I’d stopped seeing myself as a woman. My reality as a trans person was inescapable. I was a transwoman, not a woman. I was different, I shouldn’t be treated even remotely the same. None of us should. Transwomen are transwomen became my mantra and I removed the word cis from my vocabulary entirely.

With my sacrifice, I would take away weapons from male abusers, who were appropriating the idea they are women just because they identified as such as a mask to obscure their misogyny, destroy women’s boundaries, and gain access to their private spaces. I wasn’t entirely wrong. Of course abusers could lie about being trans and potentially get away with all kinds of wrongdoing, but it’s an issue trans rights are ancillary to. Abusers could, and do lie about anything and potentially get away with all kinds of wrongdoing.

Let me pause here for just a moment to say this is not entirely off base. Abusers can and do lie about being trans, and in some overly liberal circles this can enable abuses. We have an especially big problem with it online. Not only are there grifters who will abuse trans identities for personal, political, and financial gains, but there are also those who abuse the privilege of anonymity to intentionally cause harm in the name of trans people, trans activism, and/or feminism. I’ve written about a group of self-identified MGTOW (men going their own way, an anti-feminist movement) whose leader publicly advocated for his followers to pretend to be trans lesbians in order to harass women and undermine trans rights, causing feminism to “eat itself” to borrow his own words.

However, as much as anti-trans campaigners love to conflate these issues with real world issues, we just don’t see people like these getting away with any harm in the real world, even in countries which have had self-ID laws established for years now.

But, in my mind this was a very real issue that came with very real threats. Activists were pushing open the door for abusers. They were blurring the lines between men / women / transwomen / transmen. They’d made “trans” effectively meaningless by turning it into an umbrella term one only needed to identify their way into. According to them, any man who said he was a woman was one, and there was no difference between that type of “woman” and an adult human female. “Cis” was just a wedge these “transtrenders” were using to harm and/or erase us all.

Some of you who are reading this might remember #TSRainCrew (TS = transsexual) a group which was founded by me and about a dozen other like-minded trans people. Our symbol was the closed umbrella. We opposed the “umbrellification” of the trans community and set ourselves up to be the first line of defense against transtrenders. We wanted “trans” to mean something again. We could both restore its meaning and gain distance from all of these cringey people who were calling themselves trans but so obviously, from our perspective, were not. Our definition of what made a trans person was entirely medical and psychological, the criteria of which was designed to be sure to include we who were part of the group and those who may be like us, but no one else. Essentially we followed our own version of “truscum” ideology.


Members of this group included Kristina Harrison, Rose of Dawn, and Tranime Girl. All of whom continue to hold similar views to this day, so far as I know. However, I no longer do. I do believe that it’s unreasonable to expect to be treated in every way like a man / woman for anyone who is not perceived as one by others, but I’d never say that anyone who doesn’t or who hasn’t started HRT, had surgery, etc. is not trans, because there was a time in my life when health issues and poverty prevented me from it myself, but I was no less trans.

Anyone who’s familiar with “truscum” or “true trans” ideology will likely know it’s a cult-like way of thinking that attracts only the most selfish and egotistical trans people, which unfortunately I was at the time. It’s an ideology that acts as a lens through which one might see themselves as superior for meeting certain criteria and being “more trans” than others who might use the same label. As such, it’s one that was very attractive to me and everyone else who joined, in our poor mental states.

And believe me, we were all in very poor mental states.

Every single member was suffering in his or her own way. We were alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless, impoverished, insecure, and had a myriad of personality disorders. It was all about feeding our wounded egos, and it showed in TSRainCrew’s in-fighting and eventual decline. We were turning on each other within the first week of the group’s inception and it wasn’t long before the group dissolved entirely and became irrelevant.

Now solo, I returned to my conversations on Twitter with gender critical and radical feminists and blogged about my experiences and slowly but surely began embracing a new identity as gender critical, and “free” from gender roles. It was during this period that I began to tell outright lies for the sake of pleasing GC people.

I obscured aspects of my personal history and sexuality in order to fit into the “good side” of Blanchard’s typology of transsexuality as what they call HSTS or a homosexual transsexual, as opposed to AGP or autogynephile, which GC’s often characterize as a fetish gone horribly wrong, although in reality I fit neither category. I claimed positions on issues that I didn’t actually hold on self-ID and other trans rights, what qualified someone as trans or not, the nature of gender dysphoria, and solutions for all of the above. I had to, it was a matter of survival. If I ever said what I really thought, this group who I’d been so desperate to please would have turned on me. For them, my identity became a “genderfree” androphillic male.

My attention turned away from impugning “false” trans people and toward the theoretical heart of the matter, Queer Theory, which gender critical and radical feminists told me was to blame for opening the door to our abusers. I’ve never had a very strong foundation with QT, so it was easy for me to believe the information I was being fed in various echo chambers within this pocket of the internet I’d come to call my home. QT’s postmodernist contributions to academic theory were a threat. They were responsible for the umbrella; for blurring the lines; for erasing trans people and women / men; for opening the doorway to abusers; for creating this word “cis” that was being weaponized against our differences.

You’ll not find them now, because I feel they no longer represent my views on the issue, but on this blog I wrote several very strongly worded articles against the usage of the word “cis” and the QT philosophy of non-difference. In my articles, I advocated for transwomen/transmen as 3rd/4th gender categories, very separate and very different from women and men, and nonbinary people were simply not even included in my thinking. That never happened until my cousin came out as nonbinary and explained a lot of things I didn’t understand about nonbinary people, but that’s a story to itself. These articles were celebrated by much of the gender critical and radical feminist communities and went viral among them, especially after Graham Linehan and Debbie Hayton tweeted favorably of my work in mid-2018.

The response from them was overwhelmingly positive. My work in that period was pleasing to all but the most extreme minded gender critical and radical feminists, and as they expressed their pleasure with me, my ego was fed exactly what it needed to embrace a new identity. I took my last few steps across the bridge I’d built and became gender critical. A certain “trans activist” going by the name of Jessica Yaniv (whom if you haven’t heard of, you’re lucky and I’ll spare you details) pushed me past those last few steps by reporting tweets I wrote about her, which led to me being banned from Twitter for a week.

Upon my return, I tweeted this:


I didn’t realize it then, but I’d been being targeted and groomed since the beginning of TSRC, and that increased exponentially following this tweet.

I’d never have dreamed of saying this then, but I’ll say it with no hesitation now:

The Gender Critical movement is a cult.

Or, at least, it’s a dogmatic community which thrives like a cult. Nearly every member is either a malicious thought leader who knows exactly what they’re doing when they pull the strings they pull, or someone like me. Mentally unwell, debilitatedly insecure, and angry about abusers and cultures who perpetuate our suffering. Cult recruiters seek people like us out, pour venom into our ears, and tell us that through gender critical ideology, we can change the world, stop the abusers, and bring an end all of our suffering. They tell us we can have absolute certainty in essential, biological truths and that we are better than outsiders because of it.

I don’t think that I ever completely bought the absolute certainty I was offered, but it did cause me to question everything. It got so bad, that I actually grappled with the idea of detransitioning. Maybe these new truths could carry me through the dysphoric hellscape I’d come from pre-transition if I went back..? But worse, I also began to grapple with suicidal thoughts again, something that I’d not dealt with for a very long time. You’d think, given that, I might stop to think critically about the path I was on, but I didn’t, I couldn’t see beyond the people I needed to please.

You don’t have to understand much about human psychology and/or cults to see the red flags. I do (and did) actually understand a great deal about both psychology and cults, but none of it made me any less susceptible. People pleasing kept me blind. Even as truly sinister figures began taking turns at controlling my strings, I danced.

Let’s pause here for a moment. Watch the puppet show in your mind, and remember it as we explore another rabbit hole that runs beneath here.

Years ago, a man lied to me. He coerced me into a compromised position and broke me with fear and hopelessness. He promised me everything, and that’s exactly what he took. He showed me how flawed of a person I was as he exposed every string hooked into my back and forced me to dance for his pleasure.

Can you see the repetition of my trauma?

People pleasing was a re-enactment of this dance.

Strangely, I was seeing him everywhere, yet I couldn’t see him there. All of the abusers whose coercive exploitation I’d feared along with my gender critical and radical feminist community were him. Every time I’d take down one of our “enemies” it was like I was taking down him.

My catharsis was glorious.

And of course, it too was part of the problem. Social media has a way of bringing out the worst in us, and catharsis was its way of bringing it out of me. I’d come into every conversation with deeply pent up emotion and released it, like a volcano erupts, destructively.

I became something of an attack dog for the GC community. I was pulled into half a dozen chats and discord servers where people were constantly vigilant against the “TRA” (trans rights activist) threat, sharing and commenting as content and events flowed with time and whenever possible, I’d respond directly, zipping off to whatever corner of the internet I might please. My hunger for catharsis was insatiable, and the stream of likes, comments, reactions, etc. kept my notification bells constantly lit and my ego well-fed.

I developed more (much more) than a bit of a social media addiction.

Suddenly, my Twitter account especially was exploding. I’d had it since 2015 and between 2015-2018, I made less than 1000 tweets and never had more than 10-20 followers, and within the frame of 2018-2019, I made ~20,000 tweets and had nearly 2,000 followers.


And it was around then, at the peak of my illness, that I joined TransRational, another group that reminded me a lot of TSRainCrew, except much more, well, rational. Unlike TSRC, TR was organized, funded, and managed by a motivated leader who had a clear vision for the advancement of the organization and causes we stood for; or so it seemed at the time.

TransRational was the ultimate bridge. It was a beacon guiding to common ground where even the most extreme minded GC and TRA could come together, debate the issues, and find compromise.

So much happened with TR, especially in the events that led to its downfall after I was named its leader, that was important to my development as a people pleaser, but it would be inappropriate for me to discuss it here in full detail, both because it would be a novel’s length in and of itself and because I feel it’s really not my story to tell.

Instead, let me attempt to personally encapsulate the experience with a lesson learned:

You can’t please some people.

It was one breakdown after another for me as I was pushed to my limit and broken over and over again by my work with TR. This, I’ve come to realize is entirely because most everyone who is part of the gender critical movement (myself included) has boundary issues. They have no respect for personal limitations or any degree of “flawed” (read non-GC) thinking. It’s an all-or-nothing, black-or-white ideology with no room for compromise. You’re either with us or against us.

I’d been hurt by people pleasing plenty before, but never quite like this. This was like being tortured to death and resurrected over and over again, like Jesus Christ on an infinite loop. It was like my vision of hell that started all this coming to life.

Horrible as it was, it’s also a big part of what saved me.

TransRational taught me that I was on a fool’s errand, and jump started what would become a long, slow process of healing by forcing me, again and again, to disconnect, re-evaluate, and critically process how I’d gotten here. Sometimes we need to see rock bottom before that can happen.

You’ll notice if you read my blog that around the start of 2019, poetry became less of a hobby for me and more of a lifestyle.

There’s a powerful reason for that. Poetry is my pathway to healing.

It always has been, but it had been a long time since I’d needed it so much as I needed it then. Slowly, but surely, I started to learn how to step away from my social media addiction, from the catharsis, from people pleasing, from my abusers, from everything really, and I wrote.

Lines of poetry were every bit as painful yet gratifying to me as cutting is to a teenager coping with BPD. It gave me new perspective, as I processed my emotions from unexpected angles, constantly surprising myself with what I found when I’d take an idea, turn it sideways, and look at the world through it in a new way.

And, importantly dear reader, I had an audience to please.

In every way that my destructive people pleasing patterns were maladaptive, my audience pleasing patterns have been adaptive and transformative.

However, there were more than a few kinks in my chain. In the chaos that ensued near the end of TransRational’s lifespan, our founder stepped down and I was named its co-leader. I should have seen how things were developing for me and declined, because with each passing day I was becoming more and more uncomfortable with calling myself GC.

I began to separate myself from the GC movement, heal, and begin thinking for myself again. One of the biggest disconnects between myself and them was a disagreement over the nature of gender dysphoria. I can surmise their argument as, “If we lived in a genderless world, trans people would not exist as gender dysphoria is a social issue.” I didn’t believe this, and couldn’t bring myself to lie about biological reality. Of course I can’t know, but I firmly believe that I would still be exactly as I am even if I’d been raised in a genderless society. My distress was almost entirely biologically centered. It was body hair, odor, shape, skin texture, chemistry, etc. that was wrong with me. Nothing about being a man. I wish I could have been one, my life would have been much better for it.

One fateful evening, I found the straw that broke the camel’s back. Users on r/GenderCritical, the single biggest GC community on the internet had gotten ahold of a trans friend’s photos of herself in a bikini. She was asking a trans subreddit for advice on her appearance and gave no pretense whatsoever of being any sort of threat to women. She called herself a transwoman, not a woman and presented everything in a very neutral fashion. Seeing the GC community’s hate & vitriol for her broke me.

I tweeted, in a now forcibly deleted tweet, “If you can’t stand up to abuse in your own community like we’ve stood against abuse in ours, you can suck my ladydick,” knowing full well the hell I was about to unleash as my catharsis turned inside out; hell which destroyed both my and TransRational’s already tarnished reputation. It was an onslaught, as everyone who had ever pretended to respect me dropped all pretense and finally began to tell me what they really thought. It was horrible, but it was the first time I’d experienced true honesty in years from anyone I interacted with online. After this, I blocked all my GC-adjacent friends and shut down my social media accounts for a long, long while.

You may argue that I was “asking for it” or that my phrasing was uncalled for, but it really wasn’t just this one incident. There was a long, slow buildup to that boiling point and when I snapped, it was an act of self-protective defiance. It was the only way my distressed mind could reclaim its boundaries from the people who had taken them from me. It was the only thing I ever asked of them. My one sacred boundary; don’t encourage or enable abusers. After all, isn’t that what we’d been fighting for all along?

Imagine how different the world might have been if, as soon as I began falling into the pattern of people pleasing, I’d caught myself and instead written poems.

But c’est la vie.

I’d love to have those years back, but time doesn’t tend to work that way. And I’d love more still to undo the damage I did, but people don’t tend to work that way. I don’t expect to ever find forgiveness for anything I did, though many have already offered it. It’s just something I have to live with. If this article should inspire you to offer more, save it for someone who needs and deserves your kindness.

Save it for the next person you meet who’s lashing out at imaginary enemies in a cult-like haze and ask, “Who are you trying to please?”

Because it wasn’t just poetry and seeing the true face of the GC movement that saved me, by any means. It was the kindness that followed compassionate ears of those who heard human cries for help beneath the complex of ideological abstractions I had become.

To all those who did that for me, you know who you are.

Thank you.

I’ve not touched on my current attitudes and beliefs much in this piece. Things have changed for me drastically, but it’s difficult to describe exactly how and why. If you want to know, it’s best to just reach out and talk to me about it. I’m almost always up for a conversation.

I’m still working things out and am uncertain about a lot to be frank with you. But uncertainty is a very natural human state I’ve found peace with.

One thing I can say for sure is that the sense of absolute certainty GC ideology offers is a falsehood.

These issues are not black & white.

There are no easy solutions.

No one, on any side, can claim to hold any ultimate truths and although not knowing can sometimes make us uncomfortable, claiming truth over things we can’t know is a fool’s errand, and no one can please a fool.

Roots: Normal

A very common concept.

Recently, I had a thought provoking conversation on Twitter that’s given me pause to reflect on the concept of “normalcy” and explore my beliefs on the matter. If that sounds interesting to you, I hope you’ll follow along into this rabbit hole as I explore it.

All of this began when someone made an argument I’ll surmise as, “Trans people are not normal.”

I’m not sure if you know what it’s like to be told that you are not normal, or that your thoughts / actions / experiences are not normal, and this may vary from person to person, but for me it invokes an intense defensive emotional reaction.

To me, “normalcy” is synonymous with commonality. What is common is what we sometimes call normal. My understanding of myself is deeply rooted in a belief that I am a very common person not unlike those who I cherish in the world around me.

I’m a small town girl, I’ve had a very rocky and uncommon life, but all throughout it my Midwestern heart has yearned for simplicity and commonality. Like most very common people, all I’ve ever wanted is to relate and be related to; to form relationships that mutually benefit our common experiences in our common environments.

Basically, I just want to live a “normal” meaningful, relatable, and valuable life.

So, when someone tells me I’m not normal, it’s like a signal I’ve failed in some way to be myself; that my experience is NOT meaningful, relatable, or valuable. It feels wrong to me, and I think most everyone I’ve shared experiences with would agree that in spite of uncommon challenges in my life, I live well within the range of a normal human being.

But, their perception of “normal” as well as mine or anyone else’s is founded in subjective experience. Does it even matter what I or anyone else thinks is normal?

Perhaps it’s just my protective thought processes leading me on to prevent oncoming emotional damage, but questions like this are where my mind is drawn when I think about normalcy, especially relative to my own normalcy.

Am I normal? I don’t know. Is anyone? Is anything?

One could, quite reasonably I think, argue that nothing is normal. Our universe itself is abnormal. It defies all logic and probability that it or we could ever exist, yet here we are thinking about it and trying to understand just what it is and how we all got here.

That person who provoked these thoughts also suggested that heterosexual procreation is normal, while homosexuality is abnormal. But what’s really normal about heterosexual procreation?

So far as we know, life as it exists on Earth is incredibly abnormal relative to our universe. None of our senses or tools have thus far been able to establish whether or not life exists elsewhere. Whether or not it does, it certainly does not appear normal for life to exist as it does here in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Heterossexual procreation might seem “normal” in the broad subjective sense that it is common and caused the existence of most life as we know it, but we only conceive of it that way because it’s common. But is it really normal?

Of course, there’s always the chance we might discover extraterrestrial life somewhere, somehow, someday. It’s easy to assume it should and does exist in such a big universe, it almost has to!

But if it does, is the life there anything at all like it is here? Would it procreate similarly? Seems highly doubtful. If there’s more than one, which forms of life in the universe are normal? Who decides?

Given how downright abnormal everything about existence is, it seems absurd to call anything “normal” outside our subjective sense of commonality, which is going to vary from person to person in the same way varies from lifeform to lifeform. People who know me and share space with me tend to find me normal because they share that sense of commonality with me and together, we craft an illusion of normalcy; a social construct to which we belong so long as we’re interested in maintaining it.

Others, say who might come from another part of the world might have a very different sense of normalcy and feel quite out of place here. Some might even find our sense of normalcy around here disagreeable, but does that make our normal any less normal? What about theirs?

I’d say no, none of it was ever normal to begin with for either party. Any sense of normalcy is and always was relative to a subjective sense of commonality.

That brings me back to the man who provoked these thoughts, who suggested transition and LGBT relationships are not normal.

It may be true that transition and LGBT relationships are fairly uncommon among humans, and perhaps they may not be relatable or valuable to you for subjective reasons, but that just means we presently lack commonality.

It doesn’t mean either of us is not normal.

We aren’t normal because normalcy doesn’t exist.

Roots: Grotesques

Something’s off.

Did anyone else feel those attacks Bloomberg was throwing at Sanders about his supporters being mean online last night resonate with them?

Because that’s how trans people are treated all the time. We are treated as this monolithic entity constructed out of online experiences.

And so is Bernie. Like trans people, he’s being treated as this monolithic entity and vilified as this largely nameless/faceless mass of supporters who supposedly represent him.

How many could they name, I wonder? How many trans villains can they actually name..?

To me, it feels like almost every time I’m talking to someone online that they come at me with all of this emotion wound up in interactions with nameless / faceless masses on social media mingled with how they feel about those few villains they might name.

But that’s not me.

One of my favorite authors, Sherwood Anderson would call these “grotesques,” which, as you might imagine, are these grotesque mental representations of truths we become convinced of; when applied to people, these can manifest in especially nasty ways.

Think about it for a sec..

Are there any grotesques floating around in your head now? What’s the one of me look like? How about your loved ones? Your pets?

I’m sure you can conjure many. But here’s an important thing to remember; since we are imperfect, so are those representations.

They are not reality.

Whatever your grotesque of me might look like, that’s not me. And this is true of even my own loved ones. Their representations of me aren’t “me” either.

So, I find it important to be critical of these flawed parts of ourselves. I’m not saying doubt everything you know..

I’m just saying doubt constructively, stay curious, and avoid carving your grotesques out of amalgamated cement.

Let them be flawed as you are flawed, let them change as you change, and do the same for the actual people they represent.

I understand how this might cross boundaries for some people, as we all endure our traumas and burdens in life.

Sometimes we develop wounds so deep we have to inflict that pain on others, or protect ourselves. Our truths can become weapons and armor for us in these moments.

All over social media, I see people picking them up and using them. We’re almost always wrong to do so in any instance of our lives, but we keep on.

We who’ve been hurt in some way are especially prone to do so, I find myself doing it too often. I’m never right.

Fact of the matter is that our windows into each other’s lives are as limited as, well, actual windows; be they on a house or computer screen.

You might have a lot of ideas about me, but you don’t know me. Bernie’s detractors don’t know him. Yours don’t know you, and so on.

One thing I can say is worth doubting though is any baggage that comes with your grotesques from those who are adjacent to, or like them in your mind.

Think for instance of Jessica Yaniv’s non-existent relationship to me. If you judge me based on her, something’s off.

If you judge me based on any of the other scary trans people you might conjure, something’s off. If you judge me based on some largely nameless / faceless social media mass, something’s off.

How would you feel if someone judged you on a basis like that? Something’s off.

Roots: Orientation

An exploration of the interplay between identity & orientation.

Sexuality is a complex, personal thing.

We have many concepts to describe it and varying aspects of orientation.

People tend to have incredibly deep, personal feelings tied to their understanding of their own sexuality/orientation and thus project those feelings on to others when semantic interplay takes place between those terms as we intermingle in society.

This is an especially complex, personal matter when it comes to interplay with transgender people.

For us, traditional ways of thinking about our concepts of orientation just don’t fit. No matter how hard you try to shove us into whatever box you might like to shove us into, we just don’t fit.

I’m personally fed up with extremist views on anything to do with the whole semantic argument that springs forth from this complex interplay.

Everyone has it wrong.

Let me explain the conflict as I see it. One group believes that sexuality is tied irrevocably to chromosomal sex. Another believes that sexuality is tied irrevocably to gender identity. A third believes that sexuality is tied irrevocably to phenotype/secondary-sex characteristics. A fourth believes it’s tied irrevocably to genitalia. And there are many varying degrees of belief in between, with huge amounts of conflict between each and every one.

Simply in reading that description, I hope you begin to get a picture of the myriad of ways people perceive constitutes orientation.

Extremists in every grouping assign absolute truth values to their way of understanding these words and it’s causing a cacophony of conflict which, in my view, is almost completely unnecessary as one will realize if they step back and detach their beliefs and emotions from the conflict.

Once, I believed that orientation was tied to identity. That sexuality was like a light switch turning on/off on the basis of identity. If a man were dating a man and one of them transitioned, each would become straight or the relationship could never work.

I was wrong to think that way, and I see many people in the world today making the same mistakes, or even worse mistakes. It’s deeply frustrating for me.

This exact conflict manifests in other areas too, such as family/community life and it’s such a great and unnecessary burden for all people to be carrying as I see it.

To explain, let me talk about one of my favorite films. “Normal” (which is also a play by the same name, but I’ve only seen the film) it is about a trans woman who transitions late in life after marrying a woman and having two children. As you might imagine, it’s an incredibly complex and emotional affair.

There’s a great deal of conflict over identity represented in the film as each family/community member struggles with coming to terms with what her transition means for them. And of course the audience is part of the experience too. We are also challenged to consider what these conflicts mean to us as well.

Sexuality is never explicitly discussed in the film, but what would you make of that if you were these characters? Put yourself into the shoes of the trans woman’s wife. Consider all the emotion; the attachment to decades of knowing someone, and knowing yourself through them suddenly in flux. What does that do to you? Does it change you too?

One has to wonder how a woman who’s mothered two children and carries this mountain of emotion could ever manage to find balance again. And sadly, many real people in situations like this don’t. It can truly cause families and relationships to fall apart. Transitioning truly can wreak havoc on your circumstances as you change and adapt to reality and reality adapts to you.

But balance is possible to find. I’ll be spoiling the film here, so skip this section if you’d like to see it for yourself.

Things work out for the family in spite of *many* awkward challenges. They hold themselves together by respecting one another and giving each other space to adapt and grow together. We see them all, slowly but surely come to terms with one another and themselves. Several years of transition are shown as the main character transitions. Her wife struggles deeply, but in the end maintains love for a woman who she still sees as her husband in spite of her new identity. Her kids struggle too, but in the end find a similar happy balance in their dad becoming a woman. Nothing else changes or has to change, it may be confusing to other people but it works for them and that’s all that matters.

At the end of the film they are depicted happily sharing in mundane conflicts, two women, a husband and wife, father and mother, son and daughter. It’s a very happy ending for them. Perhaps it wouldn’t be for you, but it is for them.

What that balance looks like is again, a deeply complex, personal, emotional affair. What would you be if your partner transitioned? What would your parent be to you if they transitioned? What if how you saw them hurt them? Would you change for them? I could go on and on with the questions, but the point is to paint a picture of how utterly challenging and personal it all is.

It’s far too much so for any one ideology to ever wrap itself around. People have been forming cults/religions centered around their beliefs of the absolute “Truth” about their understandings of the answers to these questions and again I maintain, everyone is wrong.

But also I’d say, everyone is right.

Every ideology has a little piece of the truth and all would assign absolute truth values to it, but they’re all wrong to do so even though their truth is indeed truth. My deepest wish is that everyone might stop trying to shove theirs down the throats of others.

Because, let me tell you.. I’ve known straight women, lesbians, and straight/gay men alike who have all dated trans women. Every one of these configurations has made perfect sense to me, because I see the full complexity of the trans experience and I know that none of it is black and white. I know how complex and personal it is. I do not judge any of them for how they understand themselves, and I believe that doing so is a truly horrible thing for anyone to do for any reason.

Orientation, be it sexual orientation or familial orientation, is a deeply complex and personal interplay between external and internal realities. I’m sure I sound like a broken record at this point, so I’ll reveal now that’s the truth I’ve been trying to sell you on all along; a broader way to look at the realities of the transgender experience.

When we see it this way, we begin to wonder, what exactly has everyone on social media been so angrily arguing about for decades now? Trans people are just people living out their lives, seeking balance for themselves and their families. Happiness and self-content are about all that most any of us want. We want to feel right with ourselves and find balance between ourselves and the world.

It’s difficult enough to do that without all these wild ideas interceding as ideologues attempt to shove their views down your throat every day. Why everyone is so obsessed with this is beyond me. Your obsession really shows us more about you than it does anyone else. Why are you so obsessed with controlling language? Who made you the arbiter of others realities?

For me, orientation and the descriptors thereof constitute inviolable personal boundaries for me. These boundaries, like all boundaries, are no one else’s to control. This should be a non-issue but it seems to constitute about 90% of the arguments over orientation on social media. It’s all very pointless if only we respect each other’s boundaries.

What does have a point, the 10% of conversation around this, comes from anxiety over what all of this complexity means when it comes to sharing spaces with one another. Those are concerns I do understand. To those I’d ask everyone to give some thought.

Would a trans only space be okay to create? I think most of my trans siblings would agree yes. But would a cis only space? I think most might react very differently. If separate spaces are okay to create, then also we should ask why are they necessary? What is their utility? There’s a lot of complex, productive conversation we can have have around this, but it’s counterproductive and often dehumanizing to focus in on challenging one’s personal boundaries and understanding of themselves.

Personally, neither of the segregated space possibilities bothers me as long as the point of the space is just for people with similar preferences to come together and isn’t for gathering into separate tribes and commiserate in hatred of the group that’s not welcome. All I’d say in either case that matters is that the preference is well-advertised so that no one steps on anyone else’s toes.

Most spaces, I’d hope would be advertising themselves as all-inclusive. I see the need for separate spaces in many instances but I don’t at all believe this separation should be all-encompassing as some people seem to believe.

At any rate, moving forward I hope we’ll see a lot more discussion around respect for one another in these areas. Productive conversation; that sees all the nuance of the broader reality we all occupy together. We need to get out of these black and white conflicts over orientation and break free into colorful conversation on how to best find mutual respect for each other’s boundaries and strike a balance together in society that leaves no one in the margins.

We’re all integral characters to this story we call society together, let’s start acting like it and build our way to happy endings.

Roots: Strings

A philosophical exploration of Truth and the truths that obscure it.

Truth is like strings.

Knit it together with the fabric of your experience and you can make a fine coat to wrap yourself and your grotesque imaginings in.

Tear it away, you’ll reveal a naked and mad animal lost in a void beneath.

We live in an absurd universe that our limited senses and all of the tools we have created are incapable of truly perceiving.

Our lives are so small and short and painful in their own ways. Death is always on the horizon.

We are only capable of falsehood as we are ultimately incapable of knowing any objective truths. Deep down, we all wonder if we were to just— let go of all the lies we tell to cover up the truth, that the Truth would then actually be revealed and the fabric of reality would completely unravel itself.

So, we keep hold on our strings, and make certain we stay grounded, scooping up bits of fabric from reality and knitting lovely coats we tell ourselves are real. We move through reality saying things like, “This is who I really am,” believing whatever it is we might believe about the experience. We are all wrong.

The only “Truth” I’ve been able to infer is that there is none, there are only subjective experiences that vary from being to being, who may or may not exist.

I have no way to even know I even exist apart from the experiences I have affirming themselves. But it’s impossible to draw any real truth from that other than what’s subjectively garnered through my limited senses and tools. We can claim little pieces of fabric of reality we pick up and tell fabulous lies about them, but no matter how much we bury ourselves in falsehoods, we’re completely incapable of knowing anything for certain.

Overwhelming, isn’t it? I’ve been using “we” a lot just to try to be inclusive of you on this journey with me, but the truth is that these are all just things that run through my mind constantly. I’m always denying these wild ideas I think are true and making a A LOT of assumptions to move through this experience, acting as if I’m entirely wrong about everything I believe deep down in the void.

I’ve got a lovely, but torn coat made from my experiences. A long time ago, I went through hell and my coat was torn off, I saw the void on the other side then. I know I’m not the only one who’s been there. A man there offered me his coat, and I wore it for too long. It took a long time to shed his and get mine back. His wasn’t the first I’d worn either.

We’re constantly trading around coats like this, changing always, becoming different and different and different. Often, our coats aren’t just made of one material, but are an amalgamation of different materials hastily stitched together by our truths.

Even if we have perfectly functioning bodies and minds, the flaws we cover with our coats are ever-present even in the best of us. Layer your physical and emotional flaws on top of these, along with trauma, the weight of the burdens you carry, etc. and this existence can quickly become quite unbearable.

We are constantly seeking out ways to cope with our flaws, especially the ones preventing our understanding of our own ineffable nature and the nature of reality. We’ll buy into anything sold to us. Anything that we can take with us to keep the void beneath well and truly hidden.

This is a great problem for humanity. We must presuppose so much in order to function. Whether we’re religious or not, simply existing takes something of a leap of faith, be it faith in ourselves, faith in others, faith in the laws of logic, faith in our subjective truths, etc.

You may be thinking, “Oh no, she’s going to preach to us about God now isn’t she?” And yes, I am, but not like you might think.

Religion provides some powerful strings to guide us through life, showing us where and how to pick up the best fabrics and design the perfect coat, but just like in all things, the moment people proclaim a truth as Truth, it becomes a falsehood. There is no more Truth to be found in religion than anywhere else, no matter what some apologists might say. Most religions are designed to show people the void. They are taken to the edge of the unknown, shown the nothing beyond the veil, stripped, and emptied out; fresh vessels ready to be filled with happily bought falsehoods.

This isn’t to say religion is inherently bad, no, just inherently human and constructed like everything else we’ve built. No one has the answers we seek. No one can, and anyone claiming they do is a liar who probably just wants to control you for personal, political, or financial gain.

I’m no better, I want to control you too, but I want to control you in such ways as to enable you to control yourself. As I peel back the layers hiding the void in others, I’m careful to whisper, “It’s okay to be empty. It’s okay to be no one. It’s okay to be small. It’s okay to be meaningless,” It’s okay that all of this is true. It is absurd, we’ll likely never make any sense out of it as our senses are so limited, but that’s no reason not to try.

Trying, against all odds, to exist is really what life is about at its core. We can’t know, we can’t understand, but we can always try. Now and then if we try, almost will be good enough; almost existing, almost speaking Truth or almost living our lives by it, almost prolonging life, almost sharing burdens, etc etc. Anything that stops us from trying cannot be a good thing. Truth, therefore is not a good thing. When we think we have found Truth, we stop seeking it and raise our falsehoods in praise above our heads, shouting them to the heavens for all to see and hear our grotesque imaginings. That is the one thing we should never do.

The Bible says money is the root of all evil. That’s a lie, the root of all evil is Truth itself. Money can be the root of all evil if, perchance, money were your Truth and you live your life acting to maximize potential for it. But then again, maybe good and evil don’t exist at all.

Maybe, somehow, in some great cosmic contradiction, none of this is true at all and I’m just as wrong as everyone else upholding falsehoods, but it seems likely to me given none of us is capable of answering the most fundamental questions, that it has to be true, but I’ve been surprised plenty of times before, particularly by existing in the first place!

Whatever this experience of existing actually is; whatever my nature and the nature of reality are, I’m glad I’m here and I’m compelled from the void on out to try to understand it and my place in it. Whether or not I actually have a place is irrelevant, it’s the trying itself that matters; we should never stop trying.

I think that if we maintain critical awareness of our limitations and flaws, seeing ourselves at all times as the Emperor and knowing we have no clothes, we would all be able to navigate our experiences more effectively. We might always be aware of our limitations and flaws, constantly coping with them and never living in denial of them, and we might become less susceptible to people offering truths in order to control us for personal, political, or financial gains. We might become less likely to lie to ourselves and to others. Rather than taking on coats and burying ourselves under falsehoods, we might live comfortably naked and mad, but always trying to prove ourselves wrong.

For me, that’s a hopeful thought and I hope it’s good food for yours. I’m great at being wrong! It’s one of few things I can actually do right, and I’m sure you can too if you try.

I wish I had more to offer, but beyond that, all we have is subjectivity. We tell truth at our best when we embrace our limitations and flaws, and pour our subjective experience into one another like wine, from one ineffable void to another. I’ll leave you with a song that does exactly that and a hope you might create truths to share with us one day too. Enjoy!

If you hate the taste of wine
Why do you drink it ’til you’re blind?
And if you swear that there’s no truth and who cares
How come you say it like you’re right?
Why are you scared to dream of God
When it’s salvation that you want?
You see stars that clear have been dead for years
But the idea just lives on
In our wheels that roll around
As we move over the ground
And all day it seems we’ve been in between
The past and future town

We are nowhere, and it’s now
We are nowhere, and it’s now

And like a ten minute dream in the passenger seat
While the world was flying by
I haven’t been gone very long
But it feels like a lifetime

I’ve been sleeping so strange at night
Side effects they don’t advertise
I’ve been sleeping so strange
With a head full of pesticide

I’ve got no plans and too much time
I feel too restless to unwind
I’m always lost in thought as I walk a block
To my favorite neon sign
Where the waitress looks concerned
But she never says a word
Just turns the jukebox on and we hum along
And I smile back at her
And my friend comes after work
When the features start to blur
She says these bars are filled with things that kill
By now you probably should have learned
Did you forget that yellow bird?
How could you forget your yellow bird?
She took a small silver wreath and pinned it on to me
She said, “This one will bring you love”
And I don’t know if it’s true
But I keep it for good luck..

Roots: Worries

On everything making me hollow.

I’ve got a lot of baggage, and with the burden of the things I carry comes a lot of concerns.

This is just the core of who I am. I can’t do anything about it. I’m sorry.

But I know everyone else carries similar burdens. I’m not alone here. I can recognize fellow human beings when I see them, and I know what it’s like to carry things that are so heavy they cause you to bend, and even break.

I worry about those things, the bends and the breaks. People really aren’t terribly different from trees. We share similar concerns.

Every tree needs space, light, water, and nutrition to grow and make healthy fruit. Space is never a problem for trees. They respect their own kind and recognize that the growth of their peers benefits their own growth.

I need space to voice my concerns, and see everyone’s need for that space. Without it, what goes unheard is added to our burdens. We also need physical space for growth and spreading our groves. We all should do what we can to give ourselves and everyone else that space both literally and figuratively.

We need light to see and navigate the world. Where we can’t see, light must be shed or we should never grow there without the knowledge of what was seen. Light enables us to synthesize water and nutrients into oxygen. If we don’t have it, we succumb to toxicity and decay.

Water comes from outside resources and should always be shared with all the life that surrounds us. It is precious wisdom granted from survived storms and surrounding lakes, rivers, and streams. Through absorbing it, we grow ever wiser and more capable.

Nutrients also come from outside resources, we need to get them from the surrounding soil, through complex networks that rely on other creatures, like fungus, animals, other varieties of plants, and so much more. Obtaining nutrients is, we’ll suffice to say an incredibly complicated and nuanced process that relies on sharing needs and burdens.

I worry that there’s not enough space, light, water, or nutrition for us in the world. I worry about the influx of pain, hate, lies, and outrage that poisons and dries our water, consumes our nutrients, robs us of space, and blocks out the light.

I worry that the forest we call humanity is in grave danger of succumbing to toxicity and decay.

I worry that if I don’t tend to the groves around me, that is exactly what will happen. In this case, space isn’t enough, just voicing my concern isn’t enough. I want to uproot myself and take action, and I worry about how trapped and dependent my roots and ties to the grove make me.

I worry that far too many trees around me are bending and breaking. I worry about the greedy who come to cut them down before they were done worrying. I worry about all of their, and my, unfinished and failed tasks. I worry about the consequences of succumbing to our own limitations.

I worry that the world is on fire and that no one is doing anything to put it out. I worry that more and more every day, people just seem to want to burn the world. I worry about being consumed by one of their fires.

I worry about losing the ability to see and be seen. If I fall in the woods and no one is there to hear, did I even exist in the first place? I worry that people are forgetting people are people and not trees or any other abstractions. I worry that anonymity in our vast communication networks has opened a doorway that demands we have more faith in humanity than ever and we’re just wasting time turning our fellow trees into windmills to tilt at. I worry I’m surrounded by technology made to process all people into blind and belligerent idiots to sell more and more garbage sold with ads projected on our burdens.

I worry about being uprooted by abusive, predatory, greedy individuals who undermine us for personal, political, and financial gains. I worry about how those devils twist our roots and summon demons from them to hurt us. I worry they’ll leave stop. I worry they’ll uproot me and everyone around me. I worry that all the lies, manipulation, and gaslighting that living anonymously underground empowers is creating too much toxicity everywhere that is killing me and my fellow trees, forcing us to turn to ourselves for nutrition, and eat our own. I worry I’ll do that..

I worry that we worship our own fears and doubts these days and will do anything to escape them. I worry there are wicked men on poisoned pulpits hurling down more and more toxicity everywhere, spurring it on with whips that drain people of their faith and good will to empower their wickedness and make it easier and easier to spread. I worry that faith is constantly abused like this. I worry God can’t possibly exist because the same thing that compels us to rely on Him compels us to behave like this.

I worry about what they’ve done to empower only their own kind with it. I worry about what they’ve done to women, people of color, gender, sexual, and romantic minorities, and yes, also men. I worry about the system they’ve designed to make us all wicked sinners like them.

I worry about the trauma caused by all of these things and more compounding on all of us every day with more and more hate, outrage, and war.

I worry there’s no hope, even I’m rotten to my core. I worry that I’m right and no one can understand or do anything about any of this truth. I worry that trying will never be enough. I worry that almost might be the best that we’ve got.

I worry that nobody knows what it’s like. I worry we can no longer relate. I worry that we’re more connected than ever, but learning we were alone the whole time.

I worry that the same distance, disassociation, and disinterest we have for death will be what we become to one another. I worry we’ll never be able to look each other in the eye anymore because we all know the truth of our lies. I worry none of it matters anyway. I worry the nihilists are right.

I worry that if I share my whole existential crisis, we’ll all cease to exist.

I worry that it’s all too much, and all too little at the same time. I worry that it’s not just trees I have so much in common with, but everything of all kinds. I worry I’m not different. I worry I’m not the same. I worry I’m too much. I worry I’m to blame. I worry I’m never enough.

I worry I’ll never stop bending. I worry I’ll never stop breaking. I worry I don’t worry enough.

I worry my doubts and I will never work this out.

Roots: Navigating the Storm

A map to help us navigate the storms swirling around online discourse.

Twitter is a raging storm of bigotry, lying, anger, and trauma.

It can be an incredibly difficult place to navigate through any discourse. This is especially true of the discourse over trans rights.

This article will be offering many years experience in outreach and advocacy and three years delving deeply into it on specifically Twitter.

Think of this piece as street philosophy.

I’m a poorly trained philosopher, but I’ve spent most of my life studying literature, among which has been a great deal of philosophical literature and many classes that offered philosophical perspectives in secondary analysis of the media we covered in my program. Philosophy is very close to my heart, so while I’m not well-trained in many deep philosophical concepts, I do have a strong understanding of many and am a very deep and informed thinker. I’m certainly not qualified for any formal philosophical debates, but I can draw a map with words that might help us all perceive this bizarre digital hellscape we occupy.

Think for a moment of Twitter as a video game.

The theme you imagine doesn’t matter, but for our purposes let’s use the ever-so popular massively multiplayer online roleplaying game World of Warcraft (WoW).

In this game, you create a character and assign it a class, and pick a side, and join parties in a conflict.

Here is a list of classes and descriptions.

Choose one:

Warrior: Has no time for bullshit. Blocks quickly and often. Disarms and debases enemies, striking at their hearts when they are at their weakest.

Paladin: Protector of the weak; always wants to be the hero for their cause as they are a true believer in it. Will support you when you’re down, but only if it benefits the cause.

Hunter: Strikes from afar with piercing words of truth, raining hell on enemies when things get hairy. Distracts and manipulates targets when necessary.

Rogue: Backstabs enemies of their party with cold, calculating precision, manipulating conflicts so that they turn in the direction of their party. Poisons with “white” lies, as long as it harms the enemy.

Priest: Healer who takes care of their party desperately. Will do and sacrifice anything to care for them, blinded by their own light as they do what’s right by their party, but has a dark side; a shadow cast by their light.

Shaman: Harnesses the elements, absorbing damage from the chaotic world around them, which they release on their enemies, lashing out in violent bursts. Filled with rage that must be mastered, or else..

Mage: Hurls words that burn and freeze enemies. Can use their powers offensively or defensively. Rains hellfire from the sky focused on the immobilization and destruction of their enemies. They will get you banned.

Warlock: Much like a Rogue, but far more devious. Uses magic spells to burn, poison, and afflict enemies. Summons demons, using their enemies past mistakes to destroy them.

Druid: Shapeshifter who tries to be everything to everyone. Can play any role needed, but always stretches themselves too thin. Avoids combat and seeks balance wherever possible but does what they have to do. Blamed for every mistake on all sides.

I’m sure we’ve all encountered people a lot like I’ve described above. I certainly have. I could point to individuals and tell them what classes they play. Often, players switch between them.

Many already very clearly think in terms similar to these. Warriors and Paladins as I’ve described them are the sort of people who many would point to as social justice warriors. Many refer to themselves in profiles as things like “social justice mage,” all of these classes and certainly more exist in both the real world and the current form of the game.

Mainly, I play a Druid, but I’m known to also play Shaman as well as many other roles. If you see yourself in any of them as I certainly see myself, reflect on that with me as we continue.

Whichever you chose, I want you to now understand that the harm caused by these classes to their enemies in the actual video game can be understood as very real harm on Twitter, and indeed in the real world.

Our words, some philosophers would say, are actions. On Twitter, when we use these actions, there are very real consequences. Something to keep in mind here, is that these actions break Newton’s third law. The reactions to them are not, by any measure, equal and opposite.

Words, therefore, are powerful. Extremely so. Words are, no matter how much many like to deny it, literally violence.

No matter what your class, there is power in you to harm, heal, inspire, disparage, encourage, demoralize, enchant, manipulate, slander, poison, protect, betray, and so, so much more.

The pen is truly mightier than the sword.

Look at us on Twitter, with our digital pens drawing ourselves as characters in our own epic fantasy narratives, crushing our enemies.

So many of us operate exactly like this, blind to all of the very real damage we are doing. We behave like our characters would behave, we play our role, we do our best for our side, and we defeat our enemies as we’ve been trained to do by not only video games, but so so much more of our media, very much including social media.

Is it any wonder, given the digital cultures we now occupy, that we have developed such abominable Us vs. Them mentalities?

Just look at how we are socialized. We breed so much hate and fear of one another into the world. Our role models are all these digitized heroes. Even the book-based heroes are digitized these days.

These works reflect reality in such fascinating ways. We truly pour ourselves into everything we create. We have all these archetypes because they exist in the real world. They have been derived from real experience. We can get as complex or simplified with this line of reflective thinking with any subject. I’ve intentionally chosen video games to make use of a very simplistic media form that can be used as a lens on a product that is produced to be addictive to interact with, just like Twitter.

Twitter wants us to behave like this. The environment is designed for having fun and blowing off steam with anonymous masses, mindlessly playing your class as you click away your enemies one by one. They want it to be like this. They want it to be addictive. They want you to have that sense of leveling up as you grow and gain more and more followers.

They want to keep you there, so they can keep showing you advertisements. So, as your followers grow, so will the weight of their pockets. On Twitter, we even frequently see enemies created for the purpose of covert advertising. There are paid actors who create outrage intentionally while talking about products, services, organizations, etc. It is a very widespread problem. When we slay those enemies, as we’re so often compelled to do, we inadvertently advertise for them, unwittingly spreading viral marketing through our anger.

Our pain is being used for greedy ends. Better societies would be focusing their outrage toward curtailing the damage this sort of thing is causing, but we are so blind we never think to try doing or saying anything about it.

But we sure do like to talk shit on the internet!

Rather than punching up at the problems in society causing our outrage, we are compelled to swing sideways and continue fighting the imaginary enemies in our preferred digital hellscape.

What an absolute waste of time, and detriment to humanity.

We just want more and more followers, so we can get more and more powerful and imagine ourselves defeating more and more powerful enemies.

We don’t care who we hurt.

If it gets us likes, retweets, and increases our following, we will do it. For the good of our side in our preferred conflict.

We will play our roles and we will defeat our enemies.

No matter what it takes, we will be victorious.

“For the Horde!” one side shouts, “For the Alliance!” the other. Each pointing fingers at one another, and never at themselves.

We all lose in between. Bigotry, lying, anger, and trauma rage on and on and on.

The worst of humanity can’t help but emerge in the sound and fury.

We don’t see those on the other end of the keyboard as people. We see them as digitized enemies to defeat, or to now move away from the metaphor and get literal, we see ideas and ideologies.

When individuals become ideas, and groups become ideologies, we must understand that humanity is more often than not lost in translation.

Those of us who participate in discourse, especially online, must be aware of this fact if we are to navigate the storm. We must understand that there are people on the other end of the keyboard, and our words can do very real harm to them.

This is a thing to remember as we venture in digital hellscapes like Twitter. The other players are very real, and we should be careful not to hurt them. We should not see them as enemies, but fellow people and be kind to them even in their worst moments. Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. No one is perfect. We are all very much flawed creatures with animals inside us who come out to respond to threats, even the imaginary ones. I wish we could all acknowledge this and be critical of it.

It is always better to help an individual overcome their flaws than to attack them and deepen them.

Our words, which remember are actions, can either deepen divides, or work to bridge and overcome them.

To do the latter, we have to first understand our own flaws, and learn to cope with them. If we’re incapable of this, we will inevitably become demoralized and fall mindlessly back into that simplistic video game mindset, overcoming our enemies for catharsis and points for our team.

We should do everything we can to avoid these mindsets. If that means disconnecting from the game, that is what we need to do. I know that’s hard, especially with how addicting it all can be, but it’s important to be able to take a step back.

However, it’s also important to understand that many of us out in this digital hellscape can’t really do that. Our lives are so full of trauma and abuse everywhere that awful places like Twitter feel like an escape. Before we know it, we’re ignoring our friends, our health, our sanity, and so much more just for one more ring of the notification bell.

For many, there’s really not much else. The digital life is their lives. Most of the social interaction is via social media. This is becoming more and more common every day.

I feel a great deal of sympathy for people like that. They’re usually the most traumatized of us and I wish that we could have more patience for one another and help our siblings in humanity to find pathways to healing.

But we don’t, we spiral on and on, uncritically on the offensive, destroying one idea and ideology after another and scoring points for ours, no matter who it hurts.

Bigots, liars, and dishonest actors all the while stir the pot, draining more and more from the soul of humanity.

Faith is the last thing I’d like to talk about here. Faith in humanity.

In this digital hellscape, we certainly can’t have blind faith. As I’ve already discussed, there are so many forces with vested interest in spurring on conflict who create outrage with intentional purpose.

We talked about greed, one of many reasons a person or organization might engage in this behavior, but there are so many more wicked ends we might abuse faith in humanity for. Undermining your perceived enemies being a big one.

Those Rogues and Warlocks who engage in subversive tactics to undermine and poison discourse are often the most toxic part of the storm. They lie, manipulate, and cheat for dishonest gains. They obfuscate the truth and rob others of context, perspective, and information. No one, but the most wicked tend to play these roles, even if they truly believe they are doing it for good.

Bit scary, because these, along with Mages and Hunters, the last purely destructive classes, are the most beloved in most video games. People love to destroy, it’s an unfortunate part of our nature. It takes special people to be builders and creators.

In our digital hellscapes, anonymity is an ever-present ally and enemy. It both protects us and completely destroys our ability to have faith in one another.

How can we know who is trustworthy, and who is spreading poison?

Faith, sadly, is the best weapon we have, but we cannot use it blindly.

We have to sharpen our faith and use it to reveal humanity. No matter what, we should love and seek to understand those we see as our enemies. Learn about the person hiding behind the keyboard.

You’ll know truth in humanity by how much it hurts. You’ll see the burdens they carry, and they will always have a lot of fruit to offer from within if you take the time to help them unpack.

When you find each other, hold one another close and help each other grow and heal in this endless redemption arc we call life, and maybe, just maybe, we might manage to weather this storm.

I want to harness this storm, and use it to defeat itself; to share my experiences with it and talk about everything I’ve learned with hopes that others might learn from the maps I draw of my crossing.

This storm will never be easy to navigate, and getting across the gaps in our discourse can be impossibly hard, but with a bit of perspective and perseverance, humanity can and will harness this storm, and find the freedom we so desperately need, bridging all divides and overcoming all obstacles together, unabashed and in good faith.

I hope this helps you and I to meet one another there.

Roots: Detransitioning

Enough is enough.

First of all, don’t panic, I’m not detransitioning; I’ve just got something to say.

For a long time now, the subject of detransitioning has weighed heavily on me. It started several years ago when I met a detransitioned man who we will call Ken for the purposes of this article. Ken was a former transwoman who had detransitioned several months before I met him. He had been deeply traumatized by the experience and was desperately seeking a pathway to healing.

It wasn’t so much detransitioning itself that had left Ken with trauma, it was the conditions leading up to and following his detransition that had harmed him. Ken was told by local trans peers that he was “not the right kind of trans” by the TrueTrans™ crowd, primarily because he transitioned after 30. As a person who had endured dysphoria his entire life leading up to transition, Ken knew those accusations were nonsense and kept on battling his dysphoria alone.

Ostracized and isolated, Ken came to the decision that he would be better off in life by detransitioning to reclaim his male identity. Knowing that his dysphoria would return with its full intensity and dreading the moment testosterone would take control of his body again, Ken came out to tell the world, “I am detransitioning,” and then the floodgates opened. Ken endured a torrent of hateful, vitriolic rhetoric from the LGBT community he had once viewed as nothing but friends and allies, who did everything within their power to invalidate Ken and distance themselves from him.

When I met Ken some months later, he was anguished and desperate to have his story heard. So much so that he had become involved with a group of anti-trans activists who had taken him under his wing and who were grooming him to amplify his anger for the community who had disparaged him. His anger was so tangible that I honestly thought he couldn’t possibly be a real trans person, “Must be another sock account,” I assumed wrongly, completely unaware at the time of how nasty that trans/LGBT groups could treat detransitioners.

Thankfully, I realized my mistake before any harm was done, and Ken and I became friends. I keep a regular habit of checking my assumptions, and in this case I’d never been so glad that I did. Through our friendship, he was able to find some small amount of peace that the trans community at large had not afforded him and and not long after, cut his ties with the aforementioned anti-trans activists and set out to live his own life, vowing to avoid drawing any further attention to himself or the injustices that burdened him.

Ken deserves that peace, but I can’t live with injustice like that in the world. His story is not unique. It reflects the experience of almost every detransitioner I’ve since had the pleasure of meeting. Trans people and allies have it in their heads that there are particular types of people who simply are trans, and there are types who are not. Detransitioners are thought to be the types who are not, and excluded from the trans community.

What a bunch of TERFs we have become.

We exclude, ostracize, and hate our own. We treat them like bigots, liars, and enemies.

Selfishly, we fear them, terrified that it might mean we’ll be in their shoes one day. Little could be more transphobic.

Obviously I’m being hyperbolic here as not every trans person/ally reacts this way to detransitioners, but if these assertions turned your stomach, good. They should. That is the point. I am describing everything we should not want to become and I can only hope that it will help instill the desire to be better and call out this kind of trash wherever we see it.

When someone comes out to let the world know they are detransitioning, the response from trans people and allies should invariably be affirmative and supportive. They are embarking on one of the most difficult journeys of their entire lives. It should be no different whatsoever from the reaction to someone coming out as trans to begin with, because detransition is just another one of life’s many transitions, and it’s just as difficult, if not more so than transitioning in the first place. I would dare call it “stunning and brave” but that phrase wore out its welcome in my vocabulary ages ago.

As troublesome as these reactionary attitudes toward detransitioners are on their own, this issue runs far more deeply than them. This strikes directly in the hearts of political correctness and social justice activism. It is politically correct to assume that detransitioners are indeed not trans and the response from social justice activists is to bury their heads in the sand and hope no one notices they exist. Meanwhile, they get little to no social support, there is no one advocating for their rights, research into detransitioning is stifled, and too few seem to actually care that one of the most at-risk groups of people in the world is suffering.

I have no intent to detransition, but if I ever were to, I would so desperately need support and validation from my friends and family. I’d need trained mental and physical health professionals who are fully equipped to help me through the process. I’d need legislation in place to make the legal processes of reclaiming male identity as painless as possible. I’d need support groups, crisis lines, shelters, etc. with resources available for to help me.

And I would get none of it.

It’s time for change; for justice; for the LGBT community and its allies to prune the toxic blooms that are growing out of our prejudice, before it rots us out and leaves us hollow.

Roots: Liminality

Of life on the edge.

I’ve recently learned that my dad isn’t my biological father.

Before he married my mom, he’d had a vasectomy. They tried to reverse it but the attempts were unsuccessful. Still, they wanted a child and my mom was determined to carry one into the world. Thus, they opted for a donor.

I’m 35 years old and just now hearing the news.

There are so many complex thoughts and emotions brewing in me. This revelation feels so incredibly important, but meaningless at the same time.

On one hand, this changes nothing.

My parents are still my parents. I love them with all my heart. I don’t blame them for not telling me. I understand completely why they didn’t. They raised me as their own to the best of their ability and provided me a great foundation for opportunity in life. My dad broke his body working in factories for more than half his life to keep our family afloat. Carrying that sort of burden is what makes a man a father, not DNA.

On the other hand, this changes everything.

It feels like there’s this whole strange, new half of me that I never knew existed, that was buried away in my DNA. I have a completely different biological makeup than I’d previously understood. The man whose DNA I share is a doctor. An incredibly healthy one no less. Risks that I’ve feared my entire life from my dad’s side of the family are no longer things I need to worry as much about. Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and more. My dad endured a heart attack at around my current age. I’d feared for so long that the same might be likely for me.

It isn’t…

I now also know that I have siblings living all across the United States. Many of whom have kids of their own. I’m an auntie to at least five!

Two half-sisters have already contacted me through 23andMe, one of whom found all this out when she was 15 and set about doing all the legwork for the rest of us. She’s spent years seeking out the donor and our siblings. I’m so grateful to her for being so informative for me in this time of need. She told me his name, all about his history of endocrinology practice all over the country, his current location, health status, family life, everything I could hope for and more!

If I had learned all this but had nothing to go on, I’d feel so much more lost. Knowing his name and being able to learn so much about him and our genetic family so quickly has been such a blessing.

All at once, those new thoughts and emotions exist within me. A new, very deep well from which to draw life experience and inspiration from is here and I’m eager to dive into it, but at the same time terrified to. Right now, I really can’t know how this knowledge might change me.

I’m going through something a lot like a grieving process. My old self has died and there’s a whole new me here now. Who am I? I’m not entirely sure I know yet. But then again, I’m not entirely sure any of us ever knows the answer to that question.

I’m feeling very… between right now.

And that brings me to the broader topic I’d like to discuss today.

Liminality is a concept I have recently been grappling with.

The term has its roots in anthropology. It refers to the period following a rite of passage, during which one may have completed their rite and should, by all rights, be changed through the experience. But they exist in a state of betweenness, in which they struggle with the idea that they themselves have actually changed and society shares the same struggle in accepting them within their newly acquired role.

A good modern example of this might be the time following completion of a degree but prior to settling into one’s career in that field. Your rite of passage is complete, but yet the sense that any passage has actually been complete is liminal.

It’s like living on an edge. Split between your past and future selves.

Liminality is an aspect to life all humans endure. It’s a part of the human condition, there’s no doubt, but it’s an aspect to humanity that I find especially prevalent with regard to trans people.

Transitioning is interesting to think about in terms of liminality and rites of passage. The intent of our rite of passage is to change our sex from male-to-female or female-to-male, but given current technology, sex is immutable. Some sex traits are mutable, no doubt, but sex itself remains unchanged. Thus, our rite of passage can be thought of as incomplete. Moving from one state to the other is impossible for us. All that completing our rite of passage can possibly allow for us existence within a constant state of liminality.

We transfolk live on the edge, existing in a liminal reality every moment of our lives following transition. The idea that a transman is male or a transwoman is female is something that exists only in verisimilitude. When I’m seen by others and interpreted to be female, their conceptualization of me has the appearance of being true, but appearances can be deceiving.

While it’s possible for most anyone to slip in and out of liminal states, once we transition and slip into ours, the only way out is detransition. I’d happily choose intrinsic liminality over existence as a man any day.

This intrinsic, ever-present liminality is a huge part of what defines us as transwomen/transmen and makes us distinct from both men and women. It’s a burden we must carry as trans people. Those who are not can come to carry similar burdens following various rites of passage, but living on the edge is not intrinsic to their existence as it is to ours. For them, the edge is escapable. They can return from it to center themselves in reality with time and effort. For us, escape would only mean falling into the void. The edge is all we have.

So now, as I stand on the edge of this new well of experience and peer down into its darkness, I’m both terrified and excited to take the plunge and see where this new passage takes me.

I’ll see you all on the other side.