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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Words of Encouragement and Advice for Trans Guys Stumbling on TERF Blogs

I want to put this out there right now:  Stop reading TERF blogs.

TERFs are "trans exclusionary radical feminists."  Most TERFs target trans women, but every so often you run into one who is really, really obsessed with trans guys.  Some of them go on about how they "considered" transition and in retrospect realize it would have been a bad idea for them (then somehow believe it would be a bad idea for all of us based on this).  Some feel threatened by "butch flight," or the perceived reduction of lesbians who identify as "butch" in favor of more trans men.

Whatever the case, a lot of trans guys stumble on these and then I wind up having to hear about it for the umpteenth time on trans male blogs.  If you've stumbled on a TERF blog, a couple of things to keep in mind:

Resist your urges to link to these blogs in our spaces.

If there's one thing that really grates on me and makes me feel unsafe it's when yet another trans guy decides to "expose" these TERF blogs, with some indignant comment like "Can you BELIEVE this?!" or "Have you SEEN this?!"  Seriously, just stop it.

First off, nobody needs to see these things.  You're setting trans people up for being stressed out and triggered over something they will not be able to do much about (I'll talk about this next).

Second, blog writers can often see where their traffic is coming from, so when you decide to be dim and post a link to some TERF blog it's a big signpost to them to come troll around in our forums.  Some of these people pose as trans guys in order to get chat screenshots and photographs of things they think look incriminating, or they find vulnerable people to harass through private message.  When you link to these blogs, you're helping them do this.

You are not the first trans person to find these sites, and yes, we've tried getting rid of them.

The laws of the land as well as the terms of service of the blog sites are written and enforced by cis people and especially in the United States we have very wildly reckless ideals about free speech.  Right now with the rise of literal Nazis you have the ACLU and a bunch of pansy liberals getting together to wax poetical about how they have a right to free speech here.  These are people who literally Want. You. Dead. and yet they're being protected.

TERF blogs are also often impeccable at being terrible while also being entirely legal in everything they do.  So go ahead and report them, if it makes you feel better, but as far as calling for big "report this blog" campaigns?  We've been there.  In my opinion, it's not worth the stress to get people to go do this.

If you find your own picture on there?  Go ahead and try, I encourage you.  But generalized attempts to just get rid of these blogs have not worked.

Do not fall into the trap of arguing that these people are just trying to help you make an informed decision.

Look, as a long-time transitioning trans guy who had to do a lot of soul searching and came to the conclusion that the typical transition route of lifetime hormones and surgery was not for me, I will firmly say that I believe you do need to put thought into your reasons for transitioning as well as a cost benefit analysis.  Sometimes it feels like there are trans people who come out and then suddenly two months later they're on hormones and planning surgery when they haven't even gotten their feet wet.  And yes, I've seen some super bad advice from trans people (Like "Just start hormones and you'll know right away!" God damn it, stop saying that.).

Honestly, though?  Most of us already do this analysis, even if we look like we aren't from the outside.  And you can get honest advice about this from trans people already.

I've seen trans people who were high and mighty about people being offended by these TERF blogs because they're "just giving another perspective so people don't make mistakes."  They're not doing that, though.  They exist to prevent people from transitioning through lies and shame.  If you think somebody who spends all day posting screencaps of minor trans boys to her blog to call them deformed lesbians has your best interests in mind then you're ignorant as fuck.

The people writing these blogs are not attracted to men in general, so why listen to their opinions on that subject?

Beauty and attractiveness are subjective values, but they're also values trans people tend to get sensitive about due to cultural assumptions that we're not attractive, so TERF blogs tend to zero in on trying to make us insecure about our appearances when on testosterone.  The idea that we turn into fat, bald, hairy men is repeated over and over again.

I remember when I dim-wittedly clicked on a TERF link in Google one day to find some horrid essay "explaining" that trans men all expect to look like Ryan Sallans after transition only to be shocked and disappointed to find we really look more like Dom Deluise.  And I'm not saying all of us are happy with how we look after hormones, but we pretty much just look like guys, and guys have diverse appearances just as anybody else does.  If you're worried about these particular things--gaining weight, going bald, getting too much body hair--there are ways to mitigate them.  But for the most part these risks are no worse than any other guy's risk for having these things happen.

There's a common theme among these blogs where they are able to cherry-pick so-called "ugly" trans guys.  They wind up picking pictures of people who are older, or they pick unflatting photographs.  I saw one use a picture of Jamison Green as a terrifying vision of what trans men turn into... he was like 65 at the time the photo was taken, and it was a very carefully chosen photo of him in bad lighting at an unflattering angle.

But here's the kicker:  These authors generally aren't attracted to cis men, either, and some literally hate them.  So... why stress out over their revulsion about our appearances?  That's like taking advice about what the best pizza is in the area from somebody who is allergic to cheese.

Most of the physical things these people talk about as horrible mutilations are things cis people need or have, too.

I remember seeing a TERF blog post with a picture of a trans man's post-hormonal genitalia referring to it as "a mutilated clitoris" (I think she had even said something absurd, like "BEHOLD! The MUTILATED CLITORIS!").  I had to laugh at the time because it really wasn't any bigger than mine was, being pre-T at the time.  Clitorises and penises vary in size, as pretty much everybody should know by now, but talk about something with regards to a trans person and suddenly it's "deformed" and "mutilated."

TERFs don't go on campaigns saying that cis men with breast tissue absolutely mustn't have it removed lest they be "mutilated."  They don't talk about cis women with large clitorises as "deformed."  Their problem is not with our bodies, it's with us throwing wrenches in their absurd essentialist drivel.  Do not concern yourself with their bullshit.