[Guest Post] Conversion Therapy Has Rebranded and It’s Just as Dangerous by Violet Grey

I’m delighted to be welcoming the lovely and talented Violet Grey (she/her) back to Coffee & Kink with another guest post. This one is really important and also really challenging.

If you’re a straight, cis person, please take the time to read and absorb this one. If you’re queer and/or a conversion therapy survivor, please take care of yourself if you decide to engage with this <3

Amy x

Conversion Therapy Has Rebranded and It’s Just as Dangerous

TW for conversion therapy, spiritual abuse, trauma and suicide

If you’ve seen the news recently, you’ll know banning conversion therapy is back in discussion. Despite promises by the UK government to ban it back in 2018, conversion therapy is sadly still legal, with no swift action being taken to criminalise the practice. In its lengthy history and the outpouring of horrific survivor accounts, it has undergone a rebranding in recent years, but it is just as dangerous as ever. 

Being a bi person of faith (Christianity and Quaker teachings) I know not all Christians support conversion therapy. In fact, most I know are vehemently against it. However, it is a large, systemic problem in the church that needs confronting. 

What is Conversion Therapy?

Conversion therapy (sometimes known as Cure or Reparative Therapy) is a pseudoscientific practice of “repairing” or “curing” an LGBTQ+ person (usually teenagers and young adults) to change their sexual orientation to heterosexual, or gender identity to cisgender. 

It is usually undertaken by religious communities (in this case, I’m talking about Christianity), but is also known to be done by a select few medical professionals. It stems from the belief that being anything other than heterosexual and cisgender is wrong, and therefore should be treated. 

Such “treatments” to “cure” or “repair” someone of their homosexuality, bisexuality (often referred to as SSA or “Same Sex Attraction” in these circles,) or trans identity have included, but not been limited to: 

  • Biblical “counselling“: a mixture of psychotherapy-style sessions with spiritual advice. It is not uncommon for the counsellors to have no qualifications in counselling and people will be asked to sign a waiver acknowledging this. 
  • Praying and scripture study: Also known as “pray the gay away,” or praying for God to help the person with their “struggle” of Same Sex Attraction, again often reinforcing self-loathing. 
  • Physical torture, including starvation and beating
  • Exorcism
  • Electroshock Therapy 
  • Forced sterilisation and surgeries 
  • Chemical castration: The use of anaphrodisiac drugs to reduce a person’s libido or sexual activity. While it can be used to treat certain cancers, this has been used on LGBTQ+ people to “reduce homosexual urges.”

The medical community has denounced conversion therapy as a dangerous pseudoscience (with incredibly high failure rates) that contributes to PTSD, depression, anxiety, and even suicide in those who undergo it. There are countless studies with findings all pointing to the same conclusion: conversion therapy doesn’t work, and you can’t “make” someone straight any more than you can “make” someone gay.

Being LGBTQ+ it is not a choice, it doesn’t disrupt the family dynamic, and it is not caused by childhood trauma. We just are who we are. 

Rebranding: Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner

Rebranding of conversion therapy has been happening in the last fifteen years or so, primarily since the legalisation of same-sex marriage across many parts of the world. Since then, in my experience with homophobic views, they have shifted from “being gay is a choice” to “God may have made you gay. It’s just the act of homosexuality that’s a sin” in order to come across as more accepting. 

This is just as bad. One: love (and sex) is not a sin. Two: it gaslights the person through spiritual abuse. Three: it leaves already vulnerable LGBTQ+ people with two choices: 

  • A lifetime of celibacy. So no masturbation, no same-sex relationship, no sex, no nothing. 
  • A heterosexual marriage with someone we might not even love. 

Either way the options are clear: a lifetime of misery, or a lifetime of misery. But hey, God loves you, right? 

Biblical “counselling” and prayer is being championed in the wake of this so-called progressive view, to “help” people who want this so-called help. However, this toxic doctrine has been internalised in not LGBTQ+ people, but the very people claiming to help them. 

These views usually echo in the various groups: 

  • Folks who like to Bible thump and control
  • Christians who still believe sexuality is a choice
  • Well-meaning Christians

Now, “well-meaning Christian” interlinked with homophobia does sound like an oxymoron, and it is. However, with such messages being preached from the pulpit or in a mistranslated Bible verse (there are 450 English translations of the Bible!) these views will either be all you know, or even be considered a liberal take – especially if you come from a conservative background.

Their view, from my experience, does not come from malice (though I don’t justify it at all.) They genuinely feel they are doing the right thing. They think they are helping, but conversion therapy doesn’t help and in fact, can and does still cause significant harm.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

For the well-meaning folks, who believe in “hating the sin and not the sinner,” I just want to say this: I’m not trying to attack you or limit your faith. But from a fellow Christian, and a queer one at that, this take is still hurting people and we need to acknowledge this. Then we can enact truly positive change.

Sadly, this doctrine of “tolerance but not really” further reinforces self-hatred in the name of love. It reinforces distress that shouldn’t be there in the first place, and is not justifiable with any of Jesus’ teachings. 

We are called to love our neighbour and consider the fruit we bear, but if the fruit we produce leads to trauma, self-loathing and even suicide, we can’t dig our heels in with, “But the Bible says…”. There is no Biblical justification for the torture we as a community have, and continue to, put LGBTQ+ people through.  Who are we as Christians to tear two adults in love away from each other and condemn them to a life of misery?

Breaking Up with Toxic Doctrine

The truth of the matter is that Leviticus, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians, and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah were about sexual violence and abuse of power. 

We are using the Bible as a weapon when it was never meant to be. The Bible is a rich, historical document full of context to be learned, as well as a religious text. Literalism is killing people and if we want to try to be more Christ-like, we need to focus on what Christ was about: love. 

Now, there is a shift towards churches becoming LGBTQ+ affirming and progressives, both clergy and parishioner, are leading the way through thorough research of doctrine. However, it goes without saying that there is backlash against this. So while we are making positive baby steps, we’ve still got a long way to go. 

Violet Grey describes herself as “your 20-something lady who loves to write. I write erotic fiction, along with real-life sex stories, thoughts on sexuality, kink, BDSM, and generally whatever else is on my mind.” Check out her blog and give her a follow on Twitter!

Oh, and if you enjoyed this post? Tips and shopping with my affiliates help me to keep paying occasional guest bloggers.

[Guest Post] Using Gender-Neutral Language Isn’t Enough

Today’s guest post comes from Shannon Burton (they/she) who I met through the Smutlancers community. They’re a brilliantly talented writer and I’m thrilled to be publishing them on C&K for the first time, talking about gender-neutral language and how to use it.

It’s important to note that though this article uses one specific example of problematic language as its jumping-off point, it’s not about attacking or critiquing an individual. This is stuff that virtually all cis people – including me! – could do better with. I learned a huge amount from this and I’m sure you will, too.

They’ve helpfully included some working definitions for those of you who are new to these concepts, so I’ll include those first and then we’ll dive into the article.

Amy x

Definitions

Cis/cisgender: when someone’s gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth

Trans/transgender: when someone’s gender identity is different than their assigned sex at birth

Genderqueer/nonbinary: when someone’s gender identity falls outside the categories of man and woman

Intersex: when someone’s sex characteristics such as chromosomes, hormones, gonads, or genitals don’t fit neatly into typical definitions of male or female sex. Being intersex does not determine a person’s gender identity.

Vulva-owner: person with a vulva (generally including the mons pubis, labia majora and minora, clitoris, and vaginal opening.) Being a vulva owner does not determine a person’s gender identity.

Penis-owner: person with a penis (generally including glans, shaft, and foreskin.) Being a penis owner does not determine a person’s gender identity.

Using Gender-Neutral Language Isn’t Enough by Shannon Burton

Sometimes, even our best intentions fall short.

Such was the situation in the very first lesson of Dr. Emily Morse’s “Sex and Communication” Masterclass.

“I want this class to include everyone,” the Sex With Emily podcast host begins promisingly. “So instead of hearing me say woman, I’m gonna say vulva-owner or vulva, and instead of man, I’m gonna say penis-owner or penis.”

Arrrrgggg!

This is a perfect example of trying to be inclusive of trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary people and falling short. Our bodies do not always indicate our gender. Yet, this statement still implies that women are vulva-owners and men are penis-owners. It also implies that being inclusive is just a matter of swapping out gendered words (woman, man) for neutral, body-based ones and then—hurray!—our work here is done.

But not every man has a penis, and not every woman has a vulva. While this body-centered language helps when giving sex advice and talking about bodies without assuming gender, this introduction unfortunately undoes its own intent.

Without that statement, the rest of the course is pretty gender inclusive. Dr. Morse uses body-centered language throughout the lessons (slipping up just once), so that vulva-owners and penis-owners of all genders can tune in to relevant information about themselves and/or their partners. That introduction, though, leaves viewers free to mentally substitute gendered terms when they hear the gender-neutral ones, maintaining the status quo that marginalizes trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary people.

What could Dr. Morse have done differently? What can those of us who are trying to be more inclusive in our work and day-to-day life do to be better at keeping up with and using terms correctly, especially when it feels like they’re constantly changing?

The first step is to get in our own heads about gender.

Decoupling Body from Gender

Body-centered language (like penis-owner and vulva-owner) is becoming more common in some contexts, and for good reason. In reproductive health settings, for example, it’s important to know whether someone has a uterus or testes. Asking whether someone is a woman, man, or other gender identity can’t tell you that, since there are men with uteruses, women with testes, nonbinary and genderqueer people with either, and intersex people of all gender identities.

In other contexts, however, body-centered language isn’t always necessary. For example, when discussing social issues that disproportionately affect different genders, it’s appropriate to use those gendered terms. (i.e. “Women tend to make less money than men for the same work,” “Men are more likely than women to develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol,” or “Trans people experience higher rates of sexual assault than cis women and men.”) Our socially-constructed gender identities are a major part of these social problems, so using those terms makes sense.

When it comes to talking about sex, things can get messy (no surprise there!) Sex is socially stigmatized, and people of different gender identities experience different pressures as a result. Meanwhile, sex educators and businesses aim to provide helpful advice and knowledge that often involves talking very specifically about people’s most intimate body parts. 

This requires ongoing work on our part to decouple bodies from gender in our own heads, while still considering how those things interact. That’s going to look different for everyone, but one place I like to start with cisgender friends is to ask a question you may have already asked yourself, seriously or not:

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and your body’s sex characteristics had changed?

In this thought exercise, you’d still be you… but your body hair, chest, hips, and genitals would be different, and perhaps your voice, too. If you currently have a penis and testicles, you might now have a vagina, uterus, and ovaries, and vice versa.

When I first explored this question with friends in high school, our answers predictably ranged from “freak out” to “find someone to go down on me.” Go ahead, have fun with the thought exercise yourself. Think of all the things you’d do with a different appearance and new sex organs. Then, really sit with it. What would happen if you woke up with the new body day after day, week after week? What if you’d have it for the rest of your life?

For most cisgender people, I think this would be very distressing. They’d know, to their core, that they are a “woman trapped in a man’s body,” or vice versa. The body would not feel like their own, and they might seek to change it with hormone therapy and/or surgery, if they had access to that and could afford it. They’d resent being treated as a gender not their own in day-to-day interactions, and told their gender identity is wrong when they correct people.

This is often the trans experience: one’s body does not reflect the gender one knows deeply to be true. (Please note, however, that despite this not all trans people desire hormone therapy or surgery.)

When you begin to understand how your gender identity is separate from the body you possess, you begin to understand why saying something like “instead of women I’ll say vulva-owners” is well-intentioned but still problematic. Not everyone who knows in their heart that they are a woman has a vulva.

What Sex Educators and Businesses Can Do

How could Dr. Emily Morse have done better? An improved introduction might look like this:

“I want this class to include everyone, so instead of giving advice based on gender, I’m going to focus on the parts of the body many of us use during sex. You’ll hear body-centered language like penis-owner and vulva-owner to help indicate which information is most relevant to you and your partners.”

Sex educators and sex-related business owners can learn about and use better language by consulting with gender-aware writers and editors for their content. They can also commit to further educating themselves by seeking out trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary authors, bloggers, podcasters, and educators. They can read, watch, and listen to what these people are sharing to build a better understanding of how different people experience gender.

Most importantly, they shouldn’t stop here. I am but one nonbinary person and this post is a very limited introduction to thinking about gender and language. Check out resources like this guide for writing about transgender people, which is constantly being updated, and the Trans Journalists Association style guide.

Our understanding of gender is constantly changing. The language and ideas I’ve used in this post may be problematic without me realizing it, or may be outdated just a year or two from now—and that’s okay. I trust my fellow trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer comrades to hold me accountable and offer better alternatives, and you should, too. Be okay with making mistakes.

There are way more unanswered questions about gender out there than answered ones, so doing better at being inclusive is a life-long learning journey. Accepting that is a huge first step to being part of a safer world for people of all gender identities, and it’s worth taking.

About the Author

Picture of Shannon Burton, guest blogger writing about gender-neutral language

Shannon (they/she) is a sex coach and content writer residing in New Orleans. You can find them at SexCoachShannon.com or on Twitter @SexCoachShannon.

Remember: you can help me pay more guest bloggers (and pay guest bloggers more!) by donating via the tip jar.

Dear Kinkly, I’m Out [An Open Letter]

Yesterday morning, I posted on Twitter a screenshot of the email I sent to Kinkly asking them to remove my blog from their site and not include me on their “Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes” list again.

But I had more to say, so I thought I’d write an open letter.

Dear Kinkly,

This isn’t what I wanted to be writing today. I don’t enjoy using my blog in this way. All things considered, I’d much rather be writing hot smut or dildo reviews or literally fucking anything else.

However, I am in a privileged position in this situation. I am a cisgender person who is not directly harmed by transphobia. Therefore, I feel it is my responsibility to use my platform to make what difference I can.

Many people in the sex blogging community were dismayed to see what your “Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes” list, released last week, awarded prizes to bloggers who have perpetuated transphobic behaviour this year. I must stress here that we’re not talking about someone making a mistake in good faith. We’re talking about people who expressed support for a violently transphobic piece of writing. People who misgendered others deliberately. People who doubled down and attacked when asked to do better and stop hurting trans and non-binary people.

As a community, we gave you the benefit of the doubt when you published your list. We understand you can’t go through every single bit of social media interaction someone has ever had. That’s why the problem was brought to your attention calmly and politely.

We very much hoped that you would choose to do better. It wouldn’t even have been particularly difficult! All you needed to do was say “we’re really sorry, we didn’t know,” remove the bigoted people from your list, and make more of an effort to uplift marginalised voices in the future.

Instead, you chose to double down. The comments you posted on Twitter earlier this week cannot even really be described as a “non apology.” They weren’t even that. They amounted to “welp, not our problem.”

You could have chosen to own your mistake and support the most marginalised members of our community. Instead, you told us loudly and clearly that you don’t give a damn.

In a situation of injustice, you tried to remain neutral. In doing so, you sided with the oppressor.

I’m done, Kinkly. I’m out. I’ve already told you to remove my content from your platform and unless I see meaningful and substantive change, I will not consider supporting you again in any way – writing for you, sharing your content, engaging with you on social media, or allowing you to use any of my content on your site.

We spoke up, and you chose to ignore us. We asked you to do better, and instead you chose to turn away and continue to give bigotry a platform. At a certain point, all we can do is vote with our digital feet.

So that’s it. I’m out. I hope you will seriously consider the repercussions of your actions and the very real harm they have caused to trans and non-binary people, who are already marginalised in the rest of the world and deserve to find a safe space in our community. I hope you will reevaluate your approach to how you do your “Superheroes” list, should you continue to run it in the future. And I hope you’ll make some real, meaningful steps towards making amends. Might I suggest a genuine apology, removing the bigoted bloggers from your platform, and perhaps making a donation to a charity that supports trans people as a starting point?

I hope you’ll choose to do better, but I’m not holding my breath.

Amy

Want to cosign the letter? Just comment below to do so!

[Guest Blog] “You’ll Never Pass as a Woman” by Velvet Divine

I’m absolutely delighted to be welcoming Velvet Divine (fae/faer) back to Coffee & Kink for the second time! You can check out Velvet’s last guest post for me and follow faer on Twitter!

This is your reminder that Coffee & Kink is and always has been a trans positive space. I’m cis and have a lot of learning to do, but I love my trans siblings and friends and am delighted to be able to uplift their voices on the blog!

Over to Velvet.

– Amy x

“You’ll Never Pass as a Woman” by Velvet Divine

“You’ll never pass as a woman.”

The last words my mother and I exchanged regarding my transition.

I came out to my mother and my aunt (and essentially the whole family, because no one in mine has a concept of “privileged information”) on New Year’s Eve, 2015 – subsequently ruining the holidays and turning the domicile into a Cold War simulation.

Some background:

I was raised in a Roman Catholic, Colombian household. Although our family subverted the usual patriarchal expectation with our generations of single mothers (and my situation specifically, being raised by my mom and my aunt,) we still retained a lot of heteronormative frameworks. My entire life I was told that I was a “man” and had outlined for me the behaviors that were expected of a “man”.

To be quite frank, I never internalized any of those messages and never identified with being a “man” or “masculine” in any capacity. They were just words and concepts tossed at me by virtue of the particular set of plumbing I was born with, but they never meant anything to me.

Fast-forward to much later. It wasn’t until I was exposed to actual LGTBQIA+ people and terminology that I learned that the issue was not my failure to live up to some nebulous, gendered expectation, but rather that those expectations were entirely immaterial to me. I began by exploring using “they/them” pronouns and more neutrally-coded terms for myself, distancing myself from my masculinity as much as I could. And it worked, for a time. (Note: this is by no means a censure or criticism of masculinity, simply my own experience with it and having it forced upon me).

After identifying as “anything but he/him”, for a few months, my thoughts shifted from “not a man”, to “maybe a woman”, to… yes. Absolutely a woman. Much like when I discovered I wasn’t heterosexual, my initial reaction was relief and joy – at the weight of doubt lifted and the prospect of being true to myself. However, that semblance of joy was, in both instances, quickly replaced by anxiety and frustration at the knowledge that I still lived in a heteronormative world and, whether it was randos on the street, the systems and powers that be, or religion, I would have to fight tooth-and-nail to simply be true to me.

For a year I kept my realisation secret from my family and workplaces, slowly coming out to close friends and my cousins (who are practically siblings,) as well as a few professors throughout the course of the year. Some folks gave me odd looks when they heard my name and pronouns, others had difficulty with the new pronouns, and others just dropped me. And while that hurt, no one had been abusive or malicious. I guess my mistake was expecting the threat to come from outside the gates rather than within.

The initial reaction when I came out to my immediate family was resigned silence. With the evening ruined, we all retired to our separate rooms. The next few days were fairly quiet and I mistook the silence to be one of processing instead of festering. What followed were six months of being dragged to various churches, an incompetent psychoanalyst (the type who claims that bi/pansexuality don’t exist and that people like me are just “promiscuous” or “greedy”), and debilitating dissociation. I wasn’t surprised by the pious or even the general assholes, but I felt beyond betrayed by the teachers and “philosophers”, who suddenly had nothing to say while my proverbial carcass was vivisected by the vultures of archaic values.

Throughout this process, my mother did her best to belittle and discount my identity – posing that I was a confused gay man, not trans, or that my sexuality was a phase.

I have to admit, there are few things in life that given me more pleasure than watching the color drain from her face as I explained to her that I was not confused and was quite clear on what and who I was attracted to, having tasted not only the rainbow but most, if not all, of the candy shop.

Mayhaps even more important than what I learned about myself throughout those six months, was what I learned about my family.

The sheer breadth and depth of their hypocrisy and cowardice.

Gossips and educators were conveniently silent, too cowed by tradition or my mother’s infamy to offer the slightest encouragement or reassurance. Alleged guardians who were far too married and enamored of the person they had in their heads, more than willing to sacrifice the flesh-and-bone individual to protect their fantasy. Child abusers, frauds, and narcissists are coddled, made excuses for, and prayed over but the queer kid wasn’t allowed the same clemency.

I wish I could tell you that we worked through it and had some appropriately cheesy Hallmark moment with accompanying music, but I won’t because we didn’t. I became the new Black Sheep, mostly because after what they put me through, I made it a point to fight fire with fire. If I had to endure LGBTQ+ bashing under the guise of religious expression, I quite happily delivered one of the appropriate biblical punishments for infidelity, violence, and fraud (to the point of telling an uncle that I’d bet money on their God being more fond of gays than cheaters) and eventually came out as an Atheist as well.

The best we have done is reach a point where the rest of them pretend it never happened. I assume they’re waiting for me to move out and be far away from them when I do begin the physical component of my transition – out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. They’ve learned better than to bring up homo-/transphobic nonsense in my presence. I am no longer invited to the vast majority of family gatherings and those that I do get invited to, I refuse.

If you want to help me to keep bringing important stories like this to the blog, please head over to the tip jar! Thanks again to Velvet for sharing this powerful story with us.

Fellow Cis People: We Really Need to Talk About Transphobia in the Sex Positive Community

“And the love we have for each other
Will defeat the hate we suffer.
You’re my sisters, brothers, and all that’s in between”

– Grace Petrie, Pride

This isn’t going to be a fun post to write and it probably won’t be a fun one to read either. But it needs to be written. Fellow cis people, we really, really need to talk about transphobia in sex positive spaces. (I’m talking particularly about sex blogging here, but this applies to kink, swing and many queer spaces, as well.)

First, what this isn’t

This isn’t a personal attack on anyone. If you read it in that way, I suggest you take a breath and then reexamine your own behaviour and reaction. This is about much more than one person. This is about a huge, systemic and entrenched issue.

This isn’t being written for kudos, attention, or ally cookies. I’m not speaking up because I want to be seen as some awesome ally. I’m speaking up because it’s the right goddamn thing to do.

This isn’t a lecture. This is about me too, because none of us are perfect at this. We all fuck up from time to time, and we could all be doing better. This is a call-in, a plea to do your part.

This is not a new issue

Transphobia is not a new issue, and neither is transphobia in sex-positive spaces. Trans and non-binary people have been speaking out about this stuff for years. So why now? I am speaking out now because issues have come to light in recent weeks which have really thrown up the horrible, ugly undercurrent of transphobia that has been running through the sex positive world.

This is fucking heartbreaking. I love this community and I wanted – naively, perhaps – to believe we were better than this.

Fundamentally, my voice isn’t the one you should be listening to here. I’m writing this in order to use the platform – and substantial privilege – I have to hopefully do some good. But what I really want you to do is go and read the pieces by the trans and NB folks who have directly experienced harm.

Things to read before we go any further

Quenby (a fantastic writer who guest blogged for me recently) wrote this important piece about the pattern of transphobia in sex blogging. In it, they point out the exhausting cycle wherein someone does something transphobic, gets politely corrected or called out, and then proceeds to either double down or make it all about them and their hurt feelings.

“I don’t think that sex bloggers hate trans people, I don’t think you wish we didn’t exist. But I don’t think you care. I don’t think you care enough to put in the basic effort to not repeatedly hurt us. I don’t think you care enough to stand in solidarity with us when it’s inconvenient (and it is never going to be easy). And in the current climate of rising transphobia, that means you are complicit in our dehumanisation.” – Quenby

This week, a hideous, violent and transphobic blog post emerged, written by the husband of a popular blogger. A number of bloggers wrote comments essentially co-signing or endoring the vitriolic transphobia. I’m not going to link to the original post, because bigotry doesn’t deserve the clicks. But Mx Nillin wrote an important call-out thread and I encourage you to read it.

Nillin also wrote a post talking about this hateful piece, the response to it and, in connection, the problem of discrimination within the Smut Marathon competition. (One of the recent discussions around transphobia in sex blogging started because of a piece of criticism which described a trans character as “confusing.”)

Fact is that there is simply nothing fair or ethical about a competition organized, and at least partially judged, by ignorance. There just isn’t. It throws the whole thing into disrepute and makes for results tainted with toxicity, prejudice, and discrimination.” – Mx Nillin

Finally, my dear friend Quinn published this brilliant piece just today on not having to be nice to people who misgender hir. One of the things that is constantly thrown at trans people who call out transphobia is that they should just be nicer. Well, if you harm someone – and misgendering, deadnaming and making thoughtless transphobic comments is harm, even if you didn’t intend it that way – they’re not obligated to be nice about it. And your support of trans people should not hinge on whether or not any one particular trans person is “nice enough” to you.

“I don’t have to be nice to people who misgender me. But if you genuinely want to apologise and ask ‘how can I do better?‘ I would love to help educate you on how to be more inclusive of trans folks. I’m still learning how to be inclusive, and I’m still fucking up. I know I’m going to make mistakes and have to apologise for being a dick, and I’m hoping when I do fuck up other people will help educate me.” – Quinn Rhodes

We need to do better.

This is not good enough, guys. The world is fucking hard enough for trans and NB people as it is right now. Sex positive spaces ought to be better than this, and yet we’re not. Why is that? Why is this shit still happening?

It’s been heartbreaking to watch things unfold these last few weeks and especially this week, and seeing the vitriol and hate that has come out of a community I used to regard as safe and loving.

As cis people, we have a tonne of privilege here. We’ve probably never feared violence just for going to the bathroom. Most of us have never had to make the choice between our safety when we’re out in public, and presenting in a way that alleviates the pain of dysphoria. We don’t have to fight every goddamn day to be called by the correct name, referred to by the correct pronoun, to just be allowed to exist and live in fucking peace. And it is our responsibility to use our privilege in whatever way we can to make the world safer for our trans siblings.

So what can we do?

Firstly, listen to trans people. The posts I’ve linked above are a great start but there are so many incredible trans writers, thinkers and activists out there. Listen to them. Give the mic to them. Compensate them fairly for their time and effort. Remember it is not their job to educate you, and show appreciation for the time and energy they give to do so. Amplify trans voices – share their posts, retweet their work, hire them to write for your site or speak at your event.

Next, speak out against transphobia. If you hear someone misgender or deadname a trans person, correct them. If you hear transphobic vitriol, do not be a bystander. Say something. Speak up. Make your voice heard. Sitting silently and thinking someone is wrong doesn’t make anything better. So it’s time to get loud, get angry, and let the world know that we will not sit idly by and let transphobia slide.

And when you fuck up (which you will, because we’re all learning and unlearning all the time)? Apologise without centering yourself. Apologise for what you did or said. No “I’m sorry if you were offended” half-ass non-apologies. No “but I didn’t mean it.” Fucking apologise and own your behaviour. Quinn’s post has some great words on how to make a meaningful apology that counts. And recognise that an apology doesn’t erase harm, and that intention does not equal impact.

The best thing you can do, when called out on perpetuating transphobia (or any other form of oppression) is to apologise, thank the person for bringing the issue to your attention, and do better in future. The worst things you can do are dig your heels in, insist they’re wrong to be hurt, centre yourself, or double down on the offensive thing you said.

A callout is a gift

You don’t want to perpetuate harm, right? If you do, get off my blog and, to quote the wonderful Danny M. Lavery (another trans writer you should know,) “profoundly reconsider the orientation of your heart.”

Assuming you do not wish to cause harm, recognise that a call-out – or, as many prefer to think of it, a call-in – is an invitation. It is a gift that enables you to do better, to not cause the same harm in the future. Someone who calls you out – or in – almost certainly isn’t doing it to hurt you. In fact, they’ve probably done so knowing that you’re likely to get defensive, turn on them, or double down on your offensive behaviour – because that’s what people so often do when they’re called out.

They’re giving you the gift of information that enables you to become a better version of yourself. Treasure that.

Silence is complicity

All that is needed for evil to triumph, so the saying goes, is for good people to do nothing. Staying quiet in the face of violence is complicity. Not taking sides, in a situation of injustice, means you have chosen the side of the perpetrator.

We can all do better. We all need to do better. Please allow this situation to be a wake-up call, and let’s fucking do better.

The trans pride flag, for a post about transphobia in sex positive spaces

If you’d like to support trans people right now, please support the Gender Reveal Survival Fund which is supporting trans folks who are in need of urgent financial assistance.