From my perspective, this is what I saw or heard happening to our local group. I posted it on Fetlife also, for everyone to read, which was fun (not really). I worked on it for hours on Friday, then Master read it. We slept on it while he thought it over. He was unsure whether I should post it. In the morning he said go ahead. But I still edited it once more and and changed a few things that I felt sounded too harsh. So here is the result.
Last Saturday, Brat_tastic made a great presentation for us at CWF about strap on sex. I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought she did a fantastic job. There was a tense moment after Mystique told her strap on story when Brat_tastic addressed her with an emotional quaver in her voice and said we should not equate having a penis with being male in order to recognize that transpeople exist. It is my memory, and also my Master's recollection, that Mystique apologized and said she did not at all mean to imply that penis=male. The statement that made a few people so mad was her saying "The first time I wore a strap on, it made me feel more masculine". I don't remember exactly her wording, but that was the gist of it. This is a perfectly acceptable way to feel, in my opinion. Her experience of wearing something. How many other kinksters have put something extra on their body and found it made them feel more masculine or more feminine? I would say quite a lot of them have had that experience.
In a perfect world, that apology would have been accepted gracefully and the issue would be done. Perhaps Brat would have offered an alternative way to phrase the same experience to avoid causing anyone hurt in the future. I have no idea what a good alternative would have been, but if you have a suggestion feel free to make it now.
In the real world, the transpeople in the room felt they had been personally attacked and excluded by a group leader. Before you call that an overreaction on their part, imagine how rough transpeople must have it growing up in our society. Nobody recognizes their right to exist. People make fun of them. Constantly. People kill them for being trans and no other reason. People make laws to keep them from using public restrooms and try to prevent them from legally changing drivers licenses and other documents. If they aren't being ignored they are being actively attacked.
To make another comparison, I think most of us white people have been taught how not to be racists, right? There are things that you do not say, everyone knows that. Ok, not everyone. Some people think it is fine to be a racist. But everyone in my social circle thinks racism is a bad thing. How did we learn that? Generally by listening to black people when they said "Wow, that is really racist."
I'm going to go back to my own childhood here. I had the book "Little Black Sambo". I loved that book when I was 7. When I was a teenager I learned that it was a quintessentially racist portrayal of black people. Did I understand that at a deep and fundamental level? No, I did not, not right away. Eventually I could understand why it is a racist portrayal. It took me a few years of life experience. There is a difference between accepting something as true and really understanding it at a gut level. But, in the beginning, could I accept their feeling that it was a portrayal that caused people pain and encouraged injustice? Yes, I could and I did, because I didn't want to be racist. Racism=bad.
To go back to gender issues, none of us cispeople were taught how to be considerate of transpeople in school or at home. Quite the opposite, every person my age and older, and probably most younger people too, was taught as a small child that penis=boy, no penis=girl. That was drilled into us by society for 40, 50, 60 years. That is a hell of a lot of drilling. You don't erase the brain patterns of that much drilling with all the good will and wishes to be sensitive and trying to be inclusive in the world. Talking to Sophie on the subject of transness or gender feels like a minefield with no field left in it. There are only mines and there is a 100% chance that you will be blown up because you do not know the right things to say or not say if you are a cisperson. Which is why I avoid the topic completely with her. I don't like to be blown up and neither do most people. Of course, there are some in our group who take the attitude of "If you blow up at me I will blow you up right back". Tit for tat. And thus we come to where most of our group conflicts have occurred.
You don't erase gender programming over night with any method that I know of.
Compare that to the (I'm imagining here, forgive me if I have got it all wrong) experience of a transperson who hears the same message over and over growing up but it never sits right with them. It doesn't make sense to them at a gut level and yet they keep hearing it.
Eventually they reject society's message and make the declaration that penis doesn't equal male at all. Not having a penis doesn't always make you a female. Gender comes from your brain, not your genitals. This declaration causes intense pain and suffering to many of them when their families reject them and refuse to believe it, even to become violent to them and throw them out on the streets. The reaction of family and society causes many of them to commit suicide. Look up the statistics if you don't know how disproportionate it is compared to suicide rates in other groups. It really hurts to be rejected. We are social creatures, and guess where our ancestors were when they got exiled for any reason by their social group? They were dead. Being exiled and rejected can feel like death is coming for you because of who we are as social animals.
So, with that background knowledge, I will go back to our group.
Another group leader, heard about the incident and the later confrontations between Mystique and Sophie about it, and fired a shot ostensibly in defense of her good friend and also stating her right to have feelings about her own body. Which I totally support. Her body, her feelings. How can you argue that is wrong? But the way it was done and timing, I had to also see it as an attack aimed at one particular person with whom she's had arguments. You get two strong willed and outspoken people who see things differently and that can happen.
It didn't just hit Sophie. Every transperson who was at the munch knew the context, read the writing and felt the sting as well, even though it was not aimed at them. That happens with weapons sometimes. Collateral damage, they call it.
I read the writing and the comments that followed and my reaction was "Oh shit, this is bad."
When I sense something bad coming down the pike, my reaction is always to talk to my Master before going off on a rant. Rants are generally a bad idea, especially when close friends will be hurt.
Meanwhile, he had worked a full day Monday and also the night shift, 12 hours on Monday night, so when he came home tired Tuesday morning I tried to explain quickly what was going on and his reaction was "Don't post anything until I tell you what you think". And he went to sleep.
Later on, he said that he felt that it was a fight between and among some of our closest friends and taking sides would only inflame the situation further. He thought everyone would settle down in a few days and realize they ALL overreacted. I hoped that was the case but I was not optimistic. I was devastated by some of the things people were saying about Mystique and my Master and especially about me. I have no pretense to think that I don't care what my friends think of me and to hear that I am evidently hated as a part of some kind of Borg-like "CWF Board" organization was quite painful. I couldn't take hearing it anymore from people I thought were my closest friends without constantly weeping and I deactivated from Fetlife, also so I could resist the temptation to fire off my own shots which would have purely the response of anguish I felt. I wrote so many posts in my head, and every one of them was not a mature reflection but a frantic striking out at people who hurt me or people I care about. That was what my Master wanted to avoid by telling me not to make a post about it. I believe it was a good decision, even though tons of people were telling me that time was the most critical factor here, not thoughtfulness or reflection. They just want to know where I stand. Now, not in 24 hours or 48 hours. So they can decide whether to love or hate me. Whose side are you on, anyway, when your friends have a show down? That is really what they were asking, wasn't it? You can't be fucking Switzerland.
Into my state of anguish I began receiving private messages from Sophie telling me if I ever valued her friendship and the cause of social justice I needed to stand up for transpeople's rights. Now. By attacking the writer on her post.
I couldn't do it.
Number one, I had been ordered not to post. I only recognize one Master and owe obedience to one person.
Number two, I didn't get the issue at a fundamental or gut level. How could I argue a case for trans rights better than they could for themselves when they can feel what was wrong at a fundamental level and I only had a fuzzy notion that something hurtful was said and I didn't even understand what or why?
Number three, I could not go on the attack against my dearest friend (Mystique) in the world, next to Master? I knew Mystique did not intend to hurt anyone, only to share an experience she had, and she had already apologized in public at the munch. My heart felt that should have been enough.
I could not do it. I told her, no, I will not go on the attack.
Instead I talked to both Mystique and Sophie privately and tried to work out what would make a resolution to the issue as well as to make sure all viewpoints were heard without condemnation. I found nothing workable. Many tears were shed that day. I am not some impartial mediator. These are my friends, my group. I felt my social group disintegrating and wondered if I would have a single friend left when it was all done. By standing in the middle you alienate everyone. I knew that, and yet how could I take a side?
"When you hurt the ones I love, you hurt me", is not just a saying, it is a fact of human experience. And yet how does the child who sees her parents bitterly fighting and hurting each other take a side? She doesn't. She curls up in the closest and wishes the world would go away. Wishes things would go back to the way they were. Or she cuddles her dogs, cleans the house furiously, and tries to catch Pokemon.
And yet I am not a child. I had many moments of angrily telling myself "Screw them all, we need no friends. I have Master on my side and we will go back to before we met all those people who cannot manage to get along at all with each other". And yet the heart cannot be denied. I love people even when it is unwise. Even when it hurts bad. Whether they are wrong or right doesn't matter. Love matters. Knowing someone's heart matters. Kindness matters. Certain people have said very unkind things to me and I do not forget. I am hard to anger. But I am angry. And I do not forget.
Among the things said:
Why do you turn a blind eye? Why do you not speak up? Why do you not handle things in a professional manner?
Am I a professional? Gosh, that would be great because I could use the money. But no, I did not start coming to munches because I am some kind of professional munch leader (this is a laugh). Nor because I had a deep desire to mediate among friends and former lovers in the wars. I'm simply a person who is far from perfect, as are all of you. I hate conflict, I fear anger, I have no desire to do battle. My natural inclination is to roll over rather than to stand up.
I realize this makes me a very poor warrior in the causes of social justice. I have never claimed to be a warrior; I can only be myself. This is me, showing my heart to the world with the expectation that I will be knocked down once again, as anyone who shows their heart does risk.
I was asked "How many times can you be punched and still feel safe with the person who punches you?"
Interesting question for a masochist to consider. I do not feel safe with some of you anymore. And yet this is my attempt to stand up.
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