I suppose I might be considered a “Keyboard Activist.” I live too far away from any place with really active advocacy going on, plus I live in a state in which lightweight activism may well instigate the lawmakers to make things worse, not better. What I can do, however, is invest myself in trying to change minds among those who are vulnerable to the lies of those who would oppress us. Not only do I speak out even in the face of sometimes overwhelming opposition, but I hope to support and encourage others to do likewise. Not only does it plant valuable seeds with potential cis-allies, but it can give those like myself, isolated from a local support network, the opportunity to get involved in changing the culture for all trans people.
There are at least three keys, in my opinion, to effectively communicating on-line on behalf of trans equality. In the interest of those who like a mnemonic device, think of it as SAW.
1. Self-control – Probably the biggest roadblock to effective discussion with skeptics is letting your anger drive your response. Far too many of us treat every trans related story as am opportunity to “call out” those who oppose us rather than interact with them. Do they have it coming? Oh my yes! But no minds were ever changed by an angry “call out” rant. Which provokes a related thought – the person you are angrily ranting at is NOT the only person who will read your words. The truth is, the odds of you changing the attitude of the person you directly address are much lower than it is that some third party reader will be positively affected. The third party will often have already been told to expect you to be a viscous angry profane hater and if you “come in hot” you will confirm that lie and by extension lend credibility to your opponent. If they haven’t been told that, odds are they will still be skeptical of someone who’s every input is aggressive.
By contrast, if you meet obvious provocation with cool, reasoned arguments (perhaps flavored with mild snark – but always in control) then on a sub-conscious level, you exude more credibility.
2. Articulate – Related to the first item, this to is about framing your contribution in the most appealing and positive light, even when being critical. I’m not advocating her for precise grammar and so forth, but there’s a middle ground between the King’s English and the chopped up sometimes hard to follow customs of text-speak. Say things as if you were teaching a middle school student group, taking the time to lay a foundation and don’t assume they know more than they do. Also, for me, I try to avoid “buzz words” even if they are accurate. Low key is better. For example, when in mixed company (i.e. among non-supportive folks) I don’t use “cis-” even though I know it’s a perfectly inoffensive term, taken in a vacuum. When I see some cis-person object to it, I calmly point out that unless they likewise object to “hetero-” they are being inconsistent, but I still use “non-trans” in order to avoid tripping a switch that send the skeptic down an unnecessary tangent.
If you are saying to yourself “I don’t write well” or “I don’t speak well” – learn. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to figure out that “accept” doesn’t mean “except” or vice versa, or remedy a hundred other little mistakes that people make that collectively make one look dumb. Let the other side make those mistakes. Believe me, they will.
3. Well-informed – Increasingly, there’s a TON of good information out there. Acquaint yourself with it, and bookmark it, and use it when someone challenges you with a claim that goes beyond your own knowledge base to respond. Take note of who the credible writers are that provide incisive commentary, accessible information, and credible sources. For me, if it’s written by Jenny Boylan, Brynn Tannehil, or Christina Kharl I have the utmost confidence in it. Plus, there are site out there which catalog links to lots of information. Two blogger friends of mine host a long list of links to medical and scientific data regarding being trans from a biological point of view. If you pay attention, a familiar pattern of rhetoric will emerge, because they are all basically working off the same “script” which is the one that dominates the media outlets and “ministries” they listen to. It depends, of course, on the particular article to which you respond – but only to a certain extent. Certain talking points will inevitably appear. References to DNA (when what they actually mean is chromosomes, occasionally someone will get that right), claims that the science is on their side (almost always with a citation from Dr. McHugh for support along the way), claims that transitioned people have a higher suicide rate, religious arguments, and the ever-reliable bathroom argument. If you can answer those five you are well armed to take on the skeptics. If you do find a challenge you are not prepared for, don’t guess, do some research and find an answer you can defend.
Here is a handful of links for you to bookmark and start a resource file-
Brynn Tannehill with an entry level primmer on answering myths:
Fighting Back Against Anti-Transgender Talking Points
Brand new from Brynn, on bathrooms:
Debunking Bathroom Myths
(note the embedded links in many of these which provide even more resources)
One of her links leads to this:
15 Experts Debunk Right-Wing Transgender Bathroom Myth
Previously Brynn took on the misinformation about transgenderism and suicide
The Truth About Transgender Suicide
On the same subject, TransAdvocate (another great resource) has a fact check.
Among the better take-downs of McHugh
Debunking Dr. Paul McHugh
Here’s one of those medical/scientific link-dumps I mentioned:
One Stop Trans Brain Research List
And this is the other:
A.E.Brain posts tagged with “brain”
And for those who question the source, here’s an essay from one of their own:
Rethinking the Conservative Approach to Transgenderism
Obviously, there is much much more including material regarding what the Bible does (and more importantly does not) say on the subject. You could win a lot of threads just with the information here, but hopefully you take this as a starting place and not your whole library. Ultimately, as few as we are, we can’t afford to have some of us relaxing on the sidelines. So stop arguing about Caitlyn Jenner and go out and have discussions that MATTER.
Image by Erik Gregg