A note about The Deviated Norm

This here is a low traffic blog on topics close to my heart. As such, comments and engagement on old posts are always welcome and will be responded to. Except! for comments on old posts telling me to lighten up, not take things so seriously, or let things go, 'cause that shit's just plain ironic. Those comments will get a suggestion to visit Derailing for Dummies.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Compare and Contrast: A Study in Two Blogs

Oh blog reading folkz, I'm rather pissed right now. The other night I noticed that a queer/gay blog I usually like had posted yet another post about Tiwonge Chimbalanga that said she was a man.
So, being pissed at the time, I wrote a comment on slap upside the head saying as much (and explaining that it was angering to have her misgendered and having the struggle of trans* people coopted and erased by queer/gay people).
The comment was in moderation (it was technically in a "guestbook" area since the blog doesn't have commenting enabled), so I went to bed.
I check my email last night and get:
Hi there!

Aw, give me the benefit of the doubt before you chew into me, alright? :)

I do trans* stories whenever I see them, and certainly would have
mentioned that Tiwonge isn't a man if I had known. As it stands, I've read
multiple mainstream news stories about the couple, but your angry letter is
the first I've heard of this, so I think it's unfair to say that I'm
"misgendering" or "falling into the erasure" of anyone. I haven't met the
two, after all. :)

I'll look a lot more into this tonight; having the mainstream media
misidentify Steven and Tiwonge's relationship is a story in itself!
So I wrote back in INCREDIBLY even tones. I didn't call him on the tone argument, or the "but be nice to the 'allies' or else we can't possibly be allies,"-ing or the fact that the story isn't that the "mainstream" media is reporting badly, but that ALL MEDIA (other than explicitly trans* friendly media, and frankly including lots of "GLB, supposedly T" media) has been doing this, OR the fact that maybe he needs to learn to read trans* friendly blogs to learn true information about trans* people (dude, if you want to be an ally, GO TO WHERE THE OPPRESSED ARE).
Nope, I recommended a blog post that would clear up his misconceptions and then wrote:
It's great that you're interested in doing perhaps a post about misgendering by the mainstream media (and just about all the activist orgs that publicized this in the first place).

However, you did misgender Tiwonge (since you said she was a man, and she isn't), and you did contribute to the erasure of trans* identities/people (since she's a trans woman and you implied she was a cis man), even if you didn't intend to. It sucks (I'm sure you're not someone who likes to think you're contributing to oppression), but it happened, and saying it was unfair of me to point it out doesn't make it better, and ignores that truth.

I will say that my tone last night was angry. It was angry because yours is one of the few explicitly queer/gay blogs I read with any regularity, (since I generally enjoy it, and generally don't enjoy many others for their explicit and implicit transphobia), and it was a big frustration for me to realize after seeing this "gay marriage" narrative played up in Every Single media report on the topic of Tiwonge that you were doing it too, and that all the gay media seemed to also be doing it. So I suppose you could see it as unfair that *your* particular blog became the "straw that broke the camel's back" but I see it as far more unfair that even on a blog that I normally feel comfortable on, I (and presumably any other trans* person who knew about the truth of the story) was made to feel unwelcome.

In other words: you stepped on my metaphorical foot (and quite a few others), it's great that you didn't mean to, but that doesn't make it stop hurting.

Thanks for listening,
The Deviant E
This morning I awake to this piece of flaming pile of nonpology crap:
Hey there,

Factual errors happen now and then on the site; particularly ones like this which are present in multiple, reputable news sources.

Blogging is not terrifically rewarding for the amount of work involved, especially when it involves original full-colour illustrations, paid hosting, etc. I admit there was an error, but the accusitory language is unfair.

I do welcome all factual corrections, and unfortunately there will be opportunities for more, but please be friendly about them and give me the benefit of the doubt. (At least until I prove otherwise. ;)
AND I go to check the website and find that
A) my initial comment was not approved from moderation, so no one knows that he was called out on this
B) he has posted another post about Tiwonge, this time burying her gender till the end to make a dramatic reveal about "mainstream media"
C) he has not posted an apology or acknowledged that this was information he could have had weeks ago, had he *looked*
D) he has said that "word has gotten out" that Tiwonge identifies as a woman, without mentioning where possibly such word could have come from (it's like magic "word" that appears on it's own)!

Contrast that my friends with something from Shakesville:
On a blog post about a study finding that children raised by lesbian couples are more well adjusted then their peers raised by straight couples, someone wrote something talking about how fundies would hate it because there needs to be "penis owning person" in the house.

I wrote a comment reminding people that penises and xy chromosomes do not a man make (and lack of penises and xx chromosomes do not a woman make). It was published.
The response?
TheDeviantE:Thanks,for the privilege check,comment fixed now.-;-@ a rose to say sorry.
And what do you know, but the comment has been changed (to indicate cis-male manly man man-ness as opposed to "penis having"ness) but the person very explicitly put in there a tag saying "Edited for gender-essentialist language"

There was no foot stamping, no "but we're on the same side, [smiley that feels really insincere because I'm rejecting your points]". The comment *went through*, it was fixed! and in a way that acknowledged the fuck up in the first place.

It's almost like... on this *other* blog, people are actually allies and respond accordingly when called out.

So, what to do folks?
I've already posted in public some of the private correspondence (not that the email address of his is secret or anything), which some might deem a breach of ettiqutte. I do so because slap upside the head won't acknowledge his own culpability in his blog either by posting my original comment or by acknowleding it in a post of his (oh, in my comment I asked him to please post a *retraction*, you know, something that acknowledges information was wrong by saying "we done screwed up"?). So I really feel like any ettiquette breach is a tiny little piss beside his ocean of othering.
So question time: Do I continue trying to dialogue being OH SO FUCKING REASONABLE? Do I remain silent and stop reading his blog, since I doubt he'll acknowledge my reasons if I give them? Do I tell him off in an email, getting angry again and telling him I'll not be reading his blog (and a whole other set of things), in the hopes of giving him a parting shot of information and a reminder that it isn't all just peachy? Do I juggle elephants?

You tell me.


  1. Honestly, I've taken all the roads you've laid out at various times, and can only recommend you take the one you find most useful/satisfying to you. I'm certainly not going to tell you you've got to do anything. Epic Flounce can be really satisfying, but it's much harder with a pre-moderated commenting section. A link to a good article about tone arguments might be useful, if you thought the person would read it.

  2. You've got to be shitting me! Ugh, I hate the whole "don't accuse me!" thing, just got to field that from my brother yesterday when he made a sexist remark and I called him on it. My mom even came to his defense, saying "he didn't mean it that way", which, ok, intent is only part of it, and not intending it offensively doesn't make it not offensive. Grarrh.

    I just wanna say, though, un-named blogdude, the "wait, Tiwonge is a woman!" (and also, I've heard it said by one source that the name should be Tionge, the female version of Tiwonge, but I haven't been able to verify that, so...) part of the story has been making the rounds at places like Shakesville, TransGriot, and PHB for AT LEAST a week now, complete with appropriate commentary on the vasty silences of the mainstream LGB pubs and continual misframing of the situation as one of anti-gay oppression, instead of anti-trans. You could only have missed it if either A: you only read the big ones, or B: you've deliberately decided not to seek out further information on the story. If A, you're part of the problem, and if B, well, there's no excuse for that.

    From reading his comments, I doubt further engaging will produce any kind of measurable positive result, unfortunately. He seems way too wrapped up in defending his privilege and playing the "I'll only be a (half-assed, token) ally if you're NICE to me, and offer criticisms in a totally neutral tone with flowers and chocolates on a silver platter, ok?" game. I think I'd send one last email, whether a "reasonable" or angry tone is up to you, and then wash my hands of the whole thing - and be sure to say, in the email, that I'm done reading his shit until he gets over his privilege issues, so to speak. Maybe, if you haven't already, add the examples you put here, of how fuck-ups are handled at Shakesville (which, as you say, is great about that, and really where I learned how to handle privilege-related fuckups without turning into a huge douche about it), so he can't say you're just being negative. You're offering him a positive example of how to do it right.

    I'm sorry you had to deal with this. Bleh.

  3. CaitieCat, I'm torn between being sad that you don't have a magic bullet of fighting oppression, and impressed that you've juggled elephants as a response to it ;-)

    I guess I'm just trying to get a referendum from people so that I can figure out what *would* feel best.
    Part of me thinks it'd be best (emotionally) to just stop engaging, because clearly, no matter how nice and tip-toey I am, he's going to think I'm being angry (seriously? seriously?? my email I wrote last night was angry? That was the nicest possible way to tell him he stepped in it, I even used the damn "foot stepping" metaphor, it's like the go-to metaphor for calling someone out nicely).
    Part of me would like to send him the various appropriate "Derailing for Dummies" links and explain the idea of "tone arguments" (among others) in swear filled detail.

    It's sort of up in the air is what I'm saying. (Like the elephants).

  4. I don't really see any further responses going anywhere, he'll feel he's like, totally addressed your points now and you can't say anything else bad neener neener. And it was less than a day for me between when the story broke about the couple and the misgendering was made apparent, it is just laziness to hide behind "well blogging is hard work and don't be mad at me!" The least said person could have done was made it a large, apologetic point in the next post. That would have been acknowledging that it is more than simple inaccuracy to do so.

    the larger question of how to respond to blogs and other places that pull this stuff is so much more difficult, and I don't really know. Some places I stop reading, others I keep on but try to remember I'm not really their full audience.

  5. Wow, DevE, that sucks rocks. The "why aren't you giving me cookies for acknowledging that you're human instead of expecting more of me?" shit doesn't, sadly, surprise me, but that he isn't even willing to acknowledge on his own blog where, after all, he has total control of the conversation, that he is now aware of this "new" information because you educated him on the point is deeply dishonest. Clearly, he's attempting to erase the whole exchange from his little corner of reality.

    And the idea that he's entitled to get shit wrong without being called on it because blogging is hard - shit, he stole that line from W! Presidentin' is hard! Like bloggin'! They're both hard. So, ya know, it's not fair to have any sort of standards for gettin' stuff right - cause it's already hard without that!

    If you have the energy, I like the idea of providing 'slap upside' with some reading material (like karnythia's The Do's and Don'ts of Being a Good Ally) on the way out. Because there's always a chance he'll read it out of curiousity and then, despite sniffing at it as being nothing to do with him, it might dig into his mind a bit and have some long-term effect.

  6. Maybe send one last email asking that your comment in moderation at least be released?(Not to say I think he will, but there may be a chance.)

    Or just send an actual angry email and add little smileys since that means it's a-okay when you call him a privileged asshole cause, hello, you're all smiley! You can't be mean with emoticons! Sometimes the angry response makes me feel better even though I know it's not going to help the conversation. (And runs the risk of being posted on his blog as "see how unreasonable this person is?" ignoring all the reasonable shit you did send.)


Comments that do not directly relate to points made in either the post itself or the comments of that post will be subject to deletion. So will comments that use an oppressed status as an insult (ie, racist comments, ableist comments, sexist comments, etc.)

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