Ron Gold and Bilerico: The appalling tedium of hate speech, part… I’ve lost count
Yesterday the trans blogsphere/twittercloud exploded in frustration at a post published at the Bilerico Project, a self-styled blog for LGBTQ “community.” Written by Ron Gold, an ageing cis gay rights campaigner from the 1970′s, “No to the Notion of Transgender” (ETA: The post has been removed by Bilerico) is a hateful screed, based not on the lived experience of trans people (let alone empirical evidence), but rather taking the stance that trans people are delusional and self-mutilating. It recycles many dated and fabricated prejudices against trans people under the guise of being a “challenging” opinion.
The tragedy here is that to see this sort of hate expressed in the queer community is not surprising. I’ve linked to sites before (a practice I’m not going to do anymore, as I don’t want to increase someone’s site traffic for being bigots), and it doesn’t take much effort at all to find examples of blatant hate speech existing in queer or feminist spaces without any analysis or outcry from cis people. In the process of alerting people to the problems with pieces like Ron’s trans people are inevitably called hysterical or over-sensitive by those whose goal is not to allow us to respond to the hate we face, but to silence us and leave the original message unchallenged. Often someone will apologize, half-heartedly, or give disclaimers for intent on behalf of the transphobe (as site editor Bil Browning did, after the piece went up), but only after the transphobe has had their say. This happens again and again, so I don’t see the point of deconstructing this specific incident (the many smart commenters on the original post did that far better than I could hope to).
For the past week or so I’ve been writing an article on domestic violence, specifically on my experience of having been abused in a queer relationship by a cis woman and how it has taken me several years to speak out about it. It has been a challenging piece to write. As I’ve been writing I’ve realized a strong undercurrent about my reluctance to talk to cis people about it, especially cis queers, because except for very few individuals I don’t trust cis queers to not erase my experience. Hate commentary by people like Ron Gold and Julie Bindel, held up by a community as ‘discourse’ or ‘challenging,’ adds to my assumption ignorance and hate, or at best ciscentric privilege. According to people like Gold and Bindel I am both delusional and a self-mutilator, so how could I be expected to provide an honest account of my life, let alone an honest count of abuse?
You might not see the connection there, but that is fallout from unchecked hate speech and erasure. Ron Gold’s commentary doesn’t just disagree with any particular point about trans people, he outright denies we exist. It is worth noting the page is named transgender_a_disease_that_doesnt_exist.php, which leaves me wondering if Bilerico’s editors thought that simply renaming the article made it responsible commentary. Look at that original post name – Transgender: A Disease That Doesn’t Exist. That suggests to me far more clearly than the watered down “No to the notion of transgender” Ron’s real ideas about trans people. This is the the most basic tactic of dehumanizing a group, and justifying violence against them – deny they exist, and violence against them seems less real, because they’re less real. To see that printed on an LGBTQ site, and to be justified as “challenging” commentary is appalling, and no amount of reactive editorializing will make it better.
Ultimately this isn’t about Ron Gold or Julie Bindel or any of the many hateful anti-trans voices out there, this is about a community which does not condemn the idea of transphobic hate at its core but instead responds to incidents of it. I suppose this allows cis-LGBQ communities to believe it isn’t a deep, systemic issue, but just the ranting of a few hateful cranks. It isn’t isolated, however, and until that is accepted by all queers, cis and trans, all we’re going to see is a cycle of hate, reaction, repeat.