On Circular Firing Squads
It is perhaps not so much a coincidence as it seems that not very long after I notice more than one of my friends – bright, talented, well-spoken women who represent the best of counterpoints to the public mythology of trans women personified by your average episode of Jerry Springer – mulling whether it is better to withdraw from being vocal advocates for trans rights and fading into an essentially stealth lifestyle that the who brouhaha over Zoey Tur erupts all over all things trans-media related.
My friends were expressing frustration with the tendency of some in our “community” (for lack of a better term) seem pre-disposed more to finding fault with the bona fides of other trans people than with standing against the efforts of those who’s goal it is to repress us. I understand their thinking. I admit that if my circumstances were favorable to “going stealth” it would be a temptation I’d have to constantly resist. It is maddening to see the way we can so easily turn on each other.
The drama surrounding Zoey Tur and her sometimes unfortunate comments is an example of this phenomena writ large.
Now I have neither the space here nor the inclination to detail all that she has been accused of and discuss each point in particular. In general, some of the criticism is unfair (nitpicking awkward wording or leaving out important context) and some of it justified but the real point here is not to write yet another screed on her comments but to get to the bigger picture.
While the tone is moderating in some corners the overall tone of the comments directed towards Tur range from harsh (from one I’d always found to be measured in tone before) right up the scale to vicious (from one known o be bombastic and angry most of the time). Much of it, but far from all, seems to carry a hint of jealousy concerning Tur’s privilege of having ready access to media platforms.
For those unaware, Zoey Tur was a high profile media/journalist type before transition, and this had the benefit (which she naturally took advantage of) of leaving her well connected and positioned to become “the transgender reporter” on a national stage. Many “leaders” trans activism, no matter how well informed and professional, struggle to get the sort of camera-access that seems from the outside to have fallen into Zoey’s lap. Others, many who toil away at blogging for little reward and almost no notice outside the community are even further removed from that access.
So here we have this new media darling, and she opens her mouth and says several things – on national shows like Dr. Drew and elsewhere – there are completely off script in terms of the messaging these “leaders” have worked hard to hone.
Now often I disagreed with what Tur was saying, other times I disagree with the script, but the story here for me is how “the community” lost it’s collective minds over Tur’s missteps. Rather than keep the eye on the ball, and work to repair the (let’s face it) very minor damage to the favored narrative, they magnified her error’s visibility a hundredfold (while decreasing the likelihood she would correct herself) by attacking Tur herself and essentially trying to destroy her credibility with the media types she was talking to.
I can’t help but wonder how much of this was concern over her damaging the message, and how much of it was jealousy tat some much face-time went to a novice representative of “what trans people think.” It seems to me perhaps in some cases the motives for the attitude, if not for the message, might be suspect.
To be sure, I think that if someone puts out info that is factually untrue it needs aggressive correction, but i don’t think we should give a Zoey Tur the same sort of hostility we give a Paul McHugh. We shouldn’t be in the business of tearing each other down, nor should we be in the business of enforcing a group-think mentality that has no room for variations of opinion.
it is that very tendency in our community which tends to make budding activists tremble in fear and consider whether or not it’s worth it to raise their voice. And we NEED those voices, yes, even Zoey Tur’s. I plead with those who are being so angry and aggressive (as if any of them would ever read this) to keep the guns pointed at the real enemies. If someone needs correcting, do so but do so without attacking them personally, no matter how much they piss you off. Remember there are bigger and more dangerous threats to our freedoms than Zoey Tur.
Image by cenz