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!

I Will Never Stop Speaking Out Against Injustice

Well, it has been a week, hasn’t it? At the time of writing, we’re less than 48 hours from the 2020 US Presidential election being called in favour of Joe Biden. The Orange Fascist who currently sits in the White House, unsurprisingly, is not conceding quietly. My home country, the UK, is back in our second four-week lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. And in the last two hours, I have witnessed some of the most shocking and violent transphobia on social media directed at my friends and members of my community. It’s a lot, and this is just the top of the iceberg. So let’s talk speaking out against injustice.

TW: I’m going to be talking about difficult subjects including anti-LGBTQ violence, sexism, transphobia, racism, police brutality, and the rise of the far right. Please take care of yourselves.

I am very aware that there are people who wish that people like me would shut up. They’ll call us SJWs, snowflakes, the loony left, and so on and so on. The thing you have to remember is this: they really, really want us to shut up. You know why? Because we terrify them.

Bigots and oppressors hang on to the status quo because it serves them. They either don’t care about the people they’re standing on to get to the position they’re in, or they’ve trained themselves not to see it. They hate us because we make them see it. We force them to confront it. People who benefit from injustice will do anything they can to hold onto the power and privilege it gives them.

All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing, as the famous quote goes.

That’s why it is vital that now, more than ever, we continue to speak up.

Joe Biden’s victory is a huge win for human rights and anti-fascism, but Trump’s defeat doesn’t mean the battle is won. There is still so much work to do, not just in America but all over the world. LGBTQ+ rights are still under attack in so many places. Institutional racism and the police brutality it enables continue to run rampant. Abortion rights are coming under fire. Here in the UK, our own brand of far-right nationalists are still gaining traction. And so on and so on and fucking so on.

We must keep going. Keep fighting. Keep speaking up and speaking out, raising our collective voices to say we will not tolerate this. Because one person might not be able to change anything on their own. But together? Together, we can change the fucking world.

I feel an obligation to speak out against injustice when I see it. And I don’t think this makes me a special or amazing or extraordinary person. I’m not, and I don’t want cookies or accolades or thanks. Frankly, it boggles my mind every single day that anyone can see the violence and oppression and bigotry going on in the world, and not want to do something to stop it. Such an astonishing lack of empathy or care for one’s fellow humans is just something I cannot grasp.

No matter how many people yell at me on social media, call me names, threaten me, launch hate campaigns against me. It’s happened before and I expect it’ll happen again. I can’t truthfully say it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t hurt, because it does matter and it does hurt. But to shut up and let them win? That would be like cutting out my soul.

I’m afraid I don’t know who to attribute these words to, as I’ve seen them floating around on social media for years (if you know who the originator is, please tell me so I can credit them!) But I think this sums it up beautifully:

Meme about snowflakes for a post about speaking out against injustice

Winter is coming. We will not be quiet. We will never stop speaking out against injustice – because enough snowflakes form an avalanche.

I want to leave you with this, from the incredible Grace Petrie:

But if there’s a fire in your heart
It only needs to be a candle
Every fire in the world
Started from one spark
So take the fire in all our hearts
We will be more than they can handle
Take my hand in here tonight
And we will light up all the dark

(Listen)

(Header image by Johnny Silvercloud, licensed through Shutterstock.)

[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.