The Problem With Cis-to-Trans Fan Art and Headcanons

By Levi van Wyk

Words you may be unfamiliar with:
Canon: Official traits given to fictional characters by the original creators. Example: “Superman has a muscled body”.
Headcanon: Unofficial traits given to fictional characters by fans, usually just for fun or creative exploring. Example: “Superman’s muscles are actually just sponges stuffed into his costume to make it seem like he has a muscled body”.

As an artist myself, I definitely understand the need for creativity and ideas to be applied to works of fiction and its characters. People generally enjoy fictional characters most when they are relatable or convey commendable behaviour. Unfortunately, a lot of fans tend to take their creativity too far by forcing ideas onto creators, their creations and other fans.

Recently, I’ve noticed a rise in artists and fans turning cisgender fictional characters transgender, as part of creative fan art projects and headcanons for fun. While it’s great to see the transgender community being represented in the creative world, it also brings a lot of problems to light.

The “obviously transgender” character

I absolutely loved the idea of taking original fictional characters and drawing them as LGBT individuals for fun. However, I recently noticed that almost all fan art featuring a cis-character-turned-trans, make it blatantly obvious that the character is transgender. Cis male characters are portrayed wearing lipstick and makeup while showing off a fabulous beard and wearing clothing generally found in the female section of a clothing store. While we try to erase gender stereotypes where we can, some things will always be gendered because of society’s way of sorting everything under labels, and the transgender community is very well aware of this. A part of the transgender community constantly asks the “do I pass?” question, while trying to match their gendered clothing, mannerisms, physical appearances and way of living to a gender-type. This may exclude agender and non-binary individuals, as they are more flexible with the previously-mentioned concerns. Unfortunately, to the entire world, gender stereotypes will most likely never be erased.

Fictional characters that seem “obviously transgender” in appearance, insinuates that transgender individuals make use of gender stereotyping to only add to their original traits, such as wearing bright pink lipstick while being unable to help the fact that they still grow beards, if the character is a trans female. I’m perfectly fine with harmless fan art, which is probably what it is, but artists and fans also need to remember that art gets seen by everyone if it’s posted online, and the general public, who probably doesn’t understand much about transgender lifestyles, might get the wrong idea. Not all transgender individuals are “out” to the public either, where the characters in these artworks scream “look at me, I’m transgender!”. More often than not, a transgender individual will not make it obvious that they are transgender to the public, unless if they feel safe to do so. I do feel like cisgender artists and fans need to go out of their way to research transgender lifestyles, join transgender groups online, talk to multiple transgender individuals and ask enough questions to fully understand the transgender community. That being said, by no means am I attacking fans, artists or their creative pieces – I’m simply noticing the problematic aspects of something that could be deemed as “harmless media”.

CIS-TO-TRASN HEADCONS

Harassment and death threats

Whenever there’s drama somewhere on some type of social media website, everyone seems to know about it, except, apparently, for the harassment and death threats people receive from creators of “this cis character is trans” posts, if they disagree with the posts. Personally, I tend to feel annoyed with these types of posts, even though I grant people the right to create headcanons and be creative. I recently asked members of a few transgender Facebook groups what they think about said headcanons, and the majority said they don’t like it or just ignore it. I’ve seen a lot of transgender individuals disagree with these types of headcanon posts, only to be met with a barrage of insults, name-calling, harassment and death threats, usually from the creators of the posts themselves. Ironically enough, after doing some digging, I’ve found that most of the creators of these posts identify as cisgender, but are a part of the LGB communities. There’s nothing wrong with this, however, the problem comes in where transgender individuals state that they disagree with posts relating to their identities and community, and are then immediately attacked and called “transphobic”.

I feel that if a transgender person states that they do not agree with something transgender-related, which was created by someone outside of the transgender community, they should be respected, instead of attacked. A lot of transgender individuals on these groups mentioned that they usually get attacked by cisgender individuals, and told that they house “internalized transphobia”. To me personally, it makes no sense for someone outside of the community to tell someone belonging to the community that they are transphobic, even while it could be a possibility. Once again, people have the right to be creative and make headcanons for characters, but they shouldn’t attack others for disagreeing with them. It’s fine to say “I think this character could be trans, because-”, but it’s wrong to say “This character is trans and if you disagree with me, you’re transphobic-”, because headcanons are fan-made and unofficial.

Gender identity is NOT an aesthetic

Carrying on from the previous topic, “cis to trans” headcanon posts and art generally have this strange type of fantasy and fairytale vibe to them. Again, this is fine, except for the fact that it makes it seem like being transgender is some sort of aesthetic, a fairytale one can only dream of living. This, of course, is not what being transgender is about at all. Being transgender can be a struggle, even in the smallest of cases. Transgender individuals experience gender dysphoria; fear of passing in gendered public spaces such as restrooms; severe bullying in the form of verbal, psychological or physical abuse for identifying as transgender; depressive and anxious episodes; and so forth. Of course, cisgender individuals experience some of these issues as well, but they’re still very different to what transgender individuals experience. For example, one of the posts featured a character who got bullied a lot because of his nerd-like personality, big glasses and interest in science – a typical trait in fictional universes, given to characters who apparently need to experience “character development”. However, the creator of the post stated that the character is transgender, which is why they constantly got bullied. While this is an interesting theory, it’s highly unrealistic, unless if the character explicitly stated that they are transgender and the bullies knew, but they didn’t, as far as I remember. Again, not all transgender people are “out” to the general public. One of the people who commented on my questions in the transgender groups, said that they feel as though the creators of these headcanon posts make it seem like being transgender is some cute way of living, with the featured character experiencing hardships and then ending up a hero of some sort in the end. Once again, I’m perfectly fine with people expressing their creativity, but research needs to be done, and creations need to be realistic in terms of being transgender, because any creations posted on the internet can be seen by the whole world, and misinformation can be spread extremely easily.

Fan art and headcanon posts also tend to have a strange insinuation that transgender individuals are “special” beings, living “special” lives. While our lives may differ to cisgender lives in a lot of ways, we’re still normal human beings. Once we accept and allow ourselves to live our identity, we live normal lives, with a few exceptions and a few changes. I understand the problem with censorship and being afraid to be creative as an artist, however, if art and creations tell an unrealistic story and have a false sense of what its featuring, it becomes a problem, especially if real-life groups of people are included.

Consumer becomes creator

Those who are familiar with “fandom culture”, will know how problematic it is on its own. Fandom culture is a type of “culture” formed around a certain fandom, where fans usually influence each other’s way of viewing characters, agreements and disagreements arise, unwritten rules are laid down, and strong opinions are generally thrown around. Fandoms can be great, but once fandom culture is implemented, general toxic behaviour and discourses arise from some fans. It does, however, also have lots of positive traits, such as meeting new people with similar interests, sharing ideas, sharing art and humour, and so forth. Unfortunately, people tend to only see the toxic side of fandom culture, and unfortunately, I will be focusing on one of the worst traits fans have developed within certain fandoms: forcing opinions and headcanons on the original creators of a creative project.

Many creators keep an eye on their fan-bases via various social media sites. Creators take note of how characters are portrayed by fans, creative alternate universes for different characters, fan-made relationships, and so forth. Personally, I believe it’s great that creators interact with fans and add certain special traits to characters based on popular opinions from fans. The problem here, is that some fans take it too far. It’s a common problem for creators to have certain traits of their characters set in stone, only to have fans demand a change in those traits. This, unfortunately, includes the fact that fans take cisgender characters and turn them transgender, while forcing others to accept this change. If fans did this for fun, it would have been fine, but unfortunately, as previously stated, things get pulled out of proportion. As a creator and trans male myself, I naturally feel the need to include LGBT characters in my work, but I also know that fans won’t respect the traits I give to my characters. This puts a lot of pressure, not just on me, but on a lot of creators in the world. We want to include more LGBT characters, but we know that fans will just ignore their identities and orientations either way. This goes for cisgender, straight characters as well. It’s very common for fans to take straight characters and make them LGB, or, as discussed in this article, cis characters, and make them trans. Again, this goes for when creators state that a character has a definite orientation or identity. Recently, Wonder Woman has been confirmed to be bisexual, and some fans still insisted that she’s lesbian, while there’s a difference between the two orientations. Thankfully, her orientation hasn’t been changed to please fans, and still remains as bisexual.

Of course, we’re talking about fictional characters here, so a lot of people might wonder what the problem is. While characters are fictional and shouldn’t necessarily be taken seriously, traits such as orientations and identities, should be. The reason for this is that, as explained earlier, everyone who gets introduced to the character, gets introduced to their traits, and if those traits are unrealistic or thrown around to be changed by fans, people will get confused, annoyed, indifferent or ignorant about those traits. In my personal opinion, fans should stop trying to force creators to change their character traits just to please a small amount of fans. There’s a big difference between a “what if” for fun, and a “this is how it is, because I said so”. It’s disrespectful towards creators and communities of people with similar orientations or identities.

The rise in LGBT representation

Personally, I absolutely love seeing more and more LGBT characters included in games and movies, however, there’s a problem with this as well. Because of the high demand of having LGBT characters in media, companies have started to do just that – include LGBT characters in their creative projects. I can’t, however, shake the feeling that this could also just be because of high demand, and that including LGBT characters in creative projects, will make it sell. This doesn’t include all companies, of course, but I feel that people should understand that a rise in LGBT representation will be seen simply because of the demand from the market. While it’s great to see said representation rise, I also feel that characters should be legit. Characters should be made a certain way, because it fits their character, not to please the audience. Of course, this type of thinking will lead to fewer sales, seeing as “audience-pleasing” has been a thing for years, even through thousand-year old storytelling.

The solution

Instead of taking existing characters and changing their identities, rather make new ones. Fans can easily create new and original characters matching their creative needs. Companies, whether doing it as part of a crowd-pleasing project, or including certain character traits because they really want to represent more communities worldwide, already do this. Examples such as Steven Universe and Overwatch have been doing an incredible job in LGBT representation, and while it sold, it also seemed to be legit – it’s simply how things are in those universes. Anyone can create a fictional world representing different people via different character personalities, nationalities, orientations and identities. I personally believe that it’s better to create complete new characters or worlds when including LGBT characters, instead of simply adding to old and existing worlds where LGBT is unheard of.

In reality, orientations and identities can change, but in the fictional universe, creators have the final say, and it’s best to respect them and how they portray their characters. If an official creator changes a character’s identity, then that’s how it is, but it’s different when fans assume a character has a certain type of identity and then force their ideas on everyone else.

I believe that all orientations and identities should be respected. Fan art and posts for fun and discussion make great additions to fandoms, but those posts and ideas shouldn’t be anything more than creative discussions and “what ifs”.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM AND FOLLOW QUANTIFY ART STUDIO.

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Best of Both Worlds

By Sabrina Samone

There’s so many ways to celebrate our duality, being Trans, and why we should. So often we’re faced with the doom and gloom of living in a world that discriminates against us, that causes us to doubt at times our own self worth, but why should we?  We as Trans-people are extremely special in so many ways.

Unfortunately so many words or labels we’ve once accepted, we now quickly discard, due to those who have exploited those terms in derogatory ways. We’ve given those that have distorted the meaning, the power. As a trans-gal babe just starting HRT, how we loathed the word she-male. There was nothing more humiliating. We were more satisfied at the time, with the term Tranny over she-male, yet as time has proved, they’ve made that as ugly and as shameful. Now as a community we’ve discarded that from our vocabulary. One that I will not let them take is; Best of Both Worlds, because we are just that. We’re a unique special two spirited people with a long history in the human race.

Two spirited people: long before the white Europeans stole the land of the Native Americans, two spirited people existed. In this land we call North America there is nothing more traditional than two spirited people. We were considered a third gender, and were a fundamental institution among most tribal people. Male and Female two spirited people have been documented in over a 130 tribes in every region of North America.¹ Two spirits usually indicates a person whose body simultaneously manifests both a masculine and feminine spirit. They were highly respected in their tribe and were considered healers, fortune tellers, matchmakers and to have a child named by a two spirit person was to have a lucky name in life.

In Ancient times we were considered dually-gifted and respected. What we understand as transgender today had often been understood quite differently at various periods in time. In the earliest ages, people who were seen to bridge the genders were often thought to possess wisdom that cis-gender people did not and were often exalted in society for this. Roman historian Plutarch depicts “the Great Mother” as an intersex deity from who the two sexes had not yet split.¹½ Transgender depictions of the Great Mother and her priestesses are found in ancient artifacts back to the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, Assyria, Babylonia and Akkad. In ancient times there were no words such as homosexuality or bisexuality, most just enjoyed sexuality.

Cybele, mother goddess and known to have transgender priesthood (2)

Today eunuchs or Hijra, as they are commonly referred as in India and other parts of south Asia; perform blessings in the form of dances at birth ceremonies and weddings. Though now, modern bigotry plagues this group as it does transgender people everywhere.

Depiction of Bagoas, known eunuch lover of Alexander the Great (3)

Whether it is two-spirited or eunuchs’, today transgender people are highly sexualized and the classic terminology used in the growing industry of transgender porn is to market us as the best of both worlds. But discarding this phrase regardless how you feel about adult entertainment, is giving them the power over it’s meaning and value to us as a people. We are indeed the best of both worlds, spiritually, physically for many, sexually, and that is something we should not be ashamed of.

It may seem shallow coming from admirers, or in a sexual reference, but it is also a compliment and appreciation for the blessings we offer the universe. By entertaining theses expressions of admiration is really intriguing; cis-gender women who admire trans-men may often say that their masculinity is much more traditional, unstained by guaranteed perceptions of male privilege, and better at connecting with women, most cis-gender men say they admire trans-women for their detail and appreciation of their femininity, something even cis-women feel that women have lost on a quest for equality. Men notice a more tender approach to their male ego.

Also trans-amorous admirers, and allies think of us as brave, strong despite the great opposition we face in society. Transgender people regardless how young or old are known to have thick skin and become very wise, very fast. We could also take a moment to listen to our allies, cause we are stronger than I think we give ourselves credit for at times. While society at large seems to continue the gender war between male and female, and sexual wars of heterosexual and homosexual, we have the wisdom to see all the sides, the negative and positive of both. Those of us that due to the drastic physical changes that we receive from testosterone and estrogen and can resist being servants of Narcissus; a fixation with oneself, many are wise beyond our years, make great loyal trustworthy friends and because of a duality in mental thinking make great artist, writers, politicians, business people, psychologist, because we are all just a little better at seeing all sides of things that are usually missed by cis-gender people.

Of course, I’m not implying we are better or superior to cis-gender people, but given the facts of history, we are an equal contributor to the human race. Equality for third gender people should be the norm, and should not have to be fought for like crumbs in the streets from people who are as mortal as we are, with no more of a supreme right than we have to dictate the meaning of life. Society today is nothing more than left over debris from the dark ages. A time when people thought it best to punish themselves for any personal pleasure, happiness and believed in so many superstitions that made rational thinking of the time nearly equivalent to the cave man era. We are still living off the residue of that era, limiting the imagination of the human race because of medieval beliefs.

We as third gender people, do have a lot to be proud of. For those of us alone and felling there is nothing to live for, these are a few reasons to realize how special you are. We have a spiritual purpose, past and future for mankind. We have attributes that due to our misfortunate birth defects and the way society responds to it, makes us see things in not so rigid ways. A prime example is the bathroom debacle; cis-gender can’t get their minds beyond sexuality and sexual desire. While it is as plain to most of us like the paint on the wall, it baffles many of us why they can’t. I think personally this is part of our gift to the world, our purpose to help all of mankind to transcend to a higher level of consciousness, because we truly are, the best of both worlds.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM

 

More supportive scriptures from the Holy Bible supporting the inner beauty of third gender people:

  • 1 Samuel 16:7 “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
    Zechariah 12:1
    “The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.”
  • John 7:24:
    Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment”

  1. Two Spirit: The Story of a Movement Unfolds; Two spirit — the movement, the societies and the term itself — marks a return to Native American traditions that historically recognized more than two genders. 1.5. Transgender History: Trans Expression in Ancient Times
  2. The myths and legends surrounding Cybele, the Roman goddess of fertility  The worship of Cybele was renown for its bloody and orgiastic ceremonies performed by her transgender, eunuch priests called the Galli.
  3. Personal relationships of Alexander the Great

 

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Auschwitz’s-The Pink Triangle-Never Forget

By Sabrina Samone

I’ve been labeled by some as a nerd and well, I agree. In fact, I’m fabulously in love with being a nerd. Some of my nerd trips are history and geography. How I love history. One thing I’ve noticed about history is that if you are hearing the news 300 years later its relevance is obviously not as strong. How did the Egyptians feel that day the Great Pyramid was complete? How was it to look at the Sphinx in it’s day. I’m sure it’s a lot grander than reading about it 3000 years later, but the beautiful fact remains…we are still reading about it.

What will it be like in 2945 when they acknowledge Auschwitz a thousand years from now? Hopefully they will remember it being one, if not the most disgustingly, horrible display of the depths of evil human beings were capable of. Hopefully they will remember the Pink Triangle.

Auschwitz was a network of German Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. The concentration and extermination camps would be where countless torturous medical experiments would take place along with the hellish torture of millions of Jewish and TBLG people. Some of the experiments ranged from experiments on twins, bone, muscle and nerve transplanting, head injury experiments; and freezing experiments with the intent of discovering means to prevent and treat hypothermia. There were 360 to 400 experiments and 280 to 300 victims indicating some victims suffered more than one experiment. One study forced subjects to endure a tank of ice water for up to five hours.

When the war was over World leaders met in France to what is called the “Paris Peace Treaties”. Never again would the world stand by and permit genocide like the Nazi regime’s extermination of six million Jews during World War II. This also led to the creation of NATO.

In 2015, on January 10th the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality unveiled a monument to commemorate members of the TGLG community who were persecuted by the Nazi regime for their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Why is it important to remember? Today, nations like Russia, Uganda, and now Kazakhstan, among other small nations have adopted anti-lgbt laws that have spread hate, caused harm, and shown remarkable resemblance to the type of laws Hitler began issuing regarding the Jewish people shortly before World War II. Nazi anti-Jewish policy began functioning on two primary levels: legal measures to expel the Jews from society and strip them of their rights and property, while simultaneously engaging in campaigns of incitement, abuse, terror, and violence of varying proportions. There was one goal: to make the Jews leave Germany. On March 9, 1933, several weeks after Hitler assumed power, organized attacks on Jews broke out across Germany. Two weeks later, the Dachau concentration camp, situated near Munich opened. In the current case of Uganda, Russia, and Kazakhstan’s current anti TBLG laws the only difference is the establishment thus far, as far as we know,  of concentration camps.

The world, NATO, and those nations that signed the Paris Peace Treaties should be appalled, but nothing is being done. They sit quietly just as they did when Hitler slowly came to power and began his rage. It wasn’t until January 27, 1945 that the entire world stood horrified at what had taken place.

Would have been worn by someone who classified themselves or were falsely accused of being Gay, Bi, or Transgender
  • The Nazi’s used a system of classifying their tortured human experiments:
    Single triangles 
  • Red triangle—political prisoners: social democrats, socialists, trade unionists, Freemasons, communists, and anarchists.
  • Green triangle— “professional criminals” (convicts, often working in the camps as Kapos).
    Blue triangle—foreign forced laborers, emigrants.
  • Purple triangle—primarily Jehovah’s Witnesses (over 99%), and members of other small religious groups.
  • Pink triangle—primarily homosexual men, as well as sexual offenders including rapists, paedophiles and zoophiles.
  • Black triangle—people who were deemed “asocial elements” (asozial) and “work shy” (arbeitsscheu) including
    • Roma (Gypsies), later assigned a brown triangle.
    • The mentally ill
    • Alcoholics
    • Vagrants and beggars
    • Pacifists
    • Conscription resisters
    • Prostitutes
    • Drug addicts

  • Brown triangleRoma (Gypsies), primarily men. Previously wore the black triangle with a “Z” notation (for Zigeuner > “Gypsy”) to the right of the triangle’s point.
    Uninverted red triangle — an enemy POW (Sonderhäftling – “Special Detainee”), German spy or traitor (Aktionshäftling – “Activities Detainee”), or a military deserter or criminal (Wehrmacht Angehöriger – “Service Member”).
  • Double triangles
    Double-triangle badges resembled two superimposed triangles forming a Star of David, a Jewish symbol.
    Two superimposed yellow triangles or a six-pointed star, the “Yellow badge”— a Jew. The word Jude (“Jew”) was often inscribed in faux-Hebrew-looking letters inside the center of the badge.
    P Letter “P” on a red triangle for Polish Christian Political Enemy (first in Auschwitz)
  • Red inverted triangle superimposed upon a yellow one—a Jewish political prisoner
  • Green inverted triangle upon a yellow one—a Jewish “habitual criminal”
  • Purple inverted triangle superimposed upon a yellow one—a Jehovah’s Witness of Jewish descent
  • Pink inverted triangle superimposed upon a yellow one—a Jewish “sexual offender”
  • Black inverted triangle superimposed upon a yellow one—”asocial” and “work shy” Jews
  • Voided black inverted triangle superimposed over a yellow triangle—a Jew convicted of miscegenation and labelled as a Rassenschänder (“race defiler”).
  • Yellow inverted triangle superimposed over a black triangle—an Aryan (woman) convicted of miscegenation and labelled as a Rassenschänder (“race defiler”).

The attack on Germany’s gay community began in 1933 when the Prussian Ministry of the Interior adopted a radically conservative social policy and authorized “Operation Clean Reich.” As a result of the ministry’s new orders, the gay bars and clubs that had been so plentiful around the turn of the century were closed or destroyed. Around the same time, gay prostitutes were detained and held in “protective custody” throughout Germany by the regime’s paramilitary forces.

We may assume the recent anti TBLG laws will eventually work themselves out, or someone will rise and take care of them but eastern Europe has proven within one lifetime (only 70 years ago), that they are willing and capable of eradicating an entire group of people.

Before World War ll there were no documented sex change operations, but it is safe to assume that many of the “thought to be” gay, effeminate men, and butch women were early transgender.

Transgender SRS history that can be traced back to World War ll


Magnus Hirschfield was an early German physician and sexologist. He is considered the first outspoken LGBT activist. He was associated with the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, where they were studying the way to change sex, until it was closed down by the Nazi Party. It was Magnus Hirschfeld who coined the term transexualism, identifying the clinical category which his colleague Harry Benjamin would later develop in the United States and a standard by which all transitioning transgender persons follow to this day.

We owe it not only to ourselves to remember for the sake of the future Trans culture, but we also as humans owe it to ourselves to remember the Pink Triangle so that no nation disregards human life as did the Nazi’s.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM

The Novel The Pink Triangle on Amazon

  1. Originally published as part of a series on the rise of fascism two years ago on our blog, Transmuseplaent.blogspot.com:

A)  Are we witnesses to the beginning Genocide of the LGBT in Russia and Uganda? 

B) Uganda and Transgender Rights…it’s time!

C) Auschwitz’s TBGL : Never Forget The Pink Triangle 

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The Inner Madness of Cookies and Milk: Learning from Baiting at Charlottesville

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

There’s a silly but useful rhyme I think you’d enjoy.  It’s easy to learn:

 

Eanie Meanie Slimy Schmo,

Catch a Nazi in his crow.

If he hollers, make him grow;

Eanie Meanie Slimy Schmo,

 

I want you to learn this rhyme because I know you can’t say it and keep a straight face.  In light of this month’s events, I think we need that; all of us.  There’s a special reason why I’m offering such a ridiculous rhyme and I hope you can see why.  I especially want transpeople to know it because we’re the most vulnerable minority of all when it comes to the threats coming down from the self-described “Alt-Right.”

Take a look at that rhyme again.  It’s plenty malleable.  “Nazi” could as easily be “Klansman”.  “A Nazi in his crow” can easily become “the Far Right in its crow.”  The intentions are basically the same.  But this isn’t about name-calling.  It isn’t even about the sliminess of racism.  It’s about another dynamic I want you to see. 

 

SUPREMACISTS’ “JUSTIFICATION”

It was evident in the weapons carried by White Supremacists in Charlottesville VA this week.  Riot gear, semi-automatic machine guns, batons: all in a rally for protection of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Think about that for a moment and see how ridiculous that really is.

White Supremacist protesters said they’re “protecting history.”  I can believe that.  But what history do they think they’re protecting, the gallantry and “goodness” of the Confederate South?  Oh please.  Confederates didn’t raise that statue let alone doing so out of goodness.

Who did?  According to some fact checking by Politifact, it was a new generation.  Most Confederate monuments had been erected between 1890 and World War I.  Reconstruction did little to raise the South out of the wreck it was after the Civil War.  By 1890 a new generation had come.  Organizations arose to use monuments to point back to a more idyllic age.  But more importantly, with the assertion of Jim Crow during that vicious era, the monuments were directed against African Americans, telling them, “Whites are in charge,” History Professor Karen L. Cox of the University of North Carolina was quoted to say in that article.1

If the Charlottesville City Council decided to remove that statue of Robert E. Lee, would that mean erasure?  Charlottesville stands less than a 2 hour drive to the southwest of the Custis-Lee Mansion in Arlington.  Robert E. Lee can be found in any U.S. History book.  Nobody can tell the story of the United States without telling the exploits of that illustrious general.  The idea of removing a statue from a pedestal being erasure of history is nonsense.

Instead, the history White supremacists want to preserve is an idea of a master White race asserting itself and crushing all challengers.  That’s it. It’s quite simple.  It’s all about ridiculously inflated egos.  That’s not a history of gallantry they’re trying to preserve but a historic shamefulness of bigotry and oppression that really does need to change.

White supremacism also means asserting some other things, like the religion of White supremacists, a current exalted by Dominionists of the Evangelical Alliance, most particularly throughout the South and Midwest.  It’s a similar current as that has fueled para-church organizations like Liberty Council and Family Research Network, some of the largest proponents of anti-transgender legislation in 2016 and today.  In that context, opposition to the “Alt-Right” is a necessary and inherent component of trans activism.

Really, now; how does a lack of melanin in one’s skin result in any particular advantage except for a greater incidence of melanoma?  That’s supposed to make Whites superior somehow?  What an idiotic idea.  If the real message White supremacists wanted to preserve in Charlottesville is the assertion of a master race as a “matter of history,” and they cluster around a statue to make that assertion with weapons, they must be the silliest people on the planet.

 

TOO SILLY

Of course it’s silliness with guns and clubs.  Do weapons make White supremacists powerful?  This reminds me of the case of the pilgrim Ann Sieben who dedicated her vacations to walking on religious pilgrimages.  On one occasion she walked to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City through the Chihuahua desert south of the U.S.-Mexico border with scarcely any money in her pocket.  She was confronted with what she described as a “giant king-cab pickup truck with giant tires made for the desert sands with 4 mounted weapons in the back.”  Armed narcotrafficantes aimed automatic weapons at her..  But she responded with laughter.  She considered it absurd. “I mean, really?  Eight men with guns?  Really?  For 1 woman?”2

What did she do with these narcotrafficantes?  While they pointed their guns to her head, she relaxed her shoulders, pushed the closest gun aside, and smiled, “Really?  Is that what you think it takes?”  For Ann, a penniless pilgrim, she didn’t need to pretend to be anything more than she really was.  If she ended her pilgrimage at the shrine or in heaven, it was okay with her.  Before long the thugs asked her to pray for them.3

I’m reminded also of many nights in the 1980’s when I left work in East Los Angeles at 11:00 pm.  I typically walked from White Memorial Medical Center to the bus stop at Mission and Macy several blocks away to catch a late bus to my home in El Monte.  I literally traveled unarmed from Cholo turf to Gangland night after night.  One night I approached the bus stop to see a man shadowboxing.  What did I do?  I simply ignored him and sat down at a nearby telephone pole to rest.  The shadowboxer was stunned because of me, convinced that because I showed no fear of him I must be a saint.  He was literally shaking.  Anybody who knows me well knows I’m no saint… philosophic fruitcake maybe, but no saint.

Isn’t it interesting how it’s those who show up with a ridiculous force of arms are often the ones most afraid?  I don’t doubt many of them manifest bloodthirstiness.  Consider shock-jock Christopher Cantwell who reportedly told Elle Reeve of Vice News Tonight, “We’re not non-violent, we’ll f…ing kill these people if we have to… I think a lot more people are going to die here.”  He predicted even more violent future episodes, even a full scale race war.4

But if these are such gallant people, why did this same person who threatened to kill others post a snivelly video to tell the world he was afraid of what might come at him after Charlottesville?5  Isn’t fear what drives such people to groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Identity Evropa, Aryan Nation, American Vanguard, and Skinheads in the first place?  Don’t they fear losing their false sense of superiority where they turn away from logic and love of fellow humans to hide behind a force of arms?

 

NOT TAKING THE BAIT

Then what importance do we ascribe to violence on the part of any counter-protester?  Blake Montgomery of BuzzFeed News pointed out an important observation as reported by the Los Angeles Times in which conflict started with 2 people, one on each side, “screaming, goading each other into throwing the first punch.6

It’s a pattern we see again and again.  There’s a word for it:  baiting.  Here’s an incident of baiting in its raw form:

I reached an intersection in Garden Grove CA in 2013 where the street markings were such that it would be too dangerous for me to hold a position in a center lane that would take me straight ahead westward.  So I decided to walk the intersection and pressed the pedestrian button.  After a minute an Evangelical couple with a toddler in a stroller approached as they crossed the street from the southeast corner to where I was waiting.  I could see in the corner of my eye that they were holding religious tracts.  Everything about them read like they were members of an Evangelical church.  The man called out to me yelling in a sarcastic and aggressive tone of voice, “Can I help you?”  I remained silent, ignoring him.

But ignoring, accepted by most people, ignited his wrath in which he intentionally misgendered me.  “I’m gonna bash his face in for not answering me!”  He was about 4 feet away and closing in on me.   I stepped away, turned and held my bicycle in front of me at arm’s length as a barrier.  He was not going to get an easy swing at me.  My defensive action infuriated both of them even more.  I stood behind, looking my assailants in the eye.

“Hey, man!  I’m gonna call the police!” he said while ostentatiously removing his cell phone from his hand.  The wife likewise joined in, saying, “Get away from our child!  This monster is out to hurt the baby!”  They moved to attack me from my left side.  I stepped back again and repositioned the bicycle as a barrier.  Their hateful tirade continued, telling me how I was going to go to hell for “harming babies.”

Again they tried to move to my left and again I stepped back and repositioned the bicycle.  Meanwhile the toddler was smiling, waving to me, and saying, “Hi!  Hi!”  The mother said to the child, “Don’t look at that abomination!” She roughly grabbed the child’s head and snapped it forward.

All this time I said absolutely nothing to anyone.  The only ones uttering any threats were that couple.  Eventually they crossed the intersection westward.  I changed my route immediately, riding northward out of harm’s way.7

Without weapons but lots of threats, the matter would have gone to police with the word of 2 against 1 and chances are any outlandish claim would have stuck at least till we went to court.  But I refused to fight.  I also refused to allow either of them to take a swing.  I only set up a barrier and made sure that barrier was in place so that the aggressors could not cross it.  But this couple wanted a fight so that they could have me prosecuted because their religion told them, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” They saw me, a transwoman, as a “threat” because their religion told them so. 

By refusing to take the bait I prevented what could easily have been an ugly incident that would have easily bred more trouble because I could have been presented as unilaterally violent to authorities, in the press, and from the pulpit.  I could have been made fodder for Evangelical propaganda.

 

THE PROPAGANDA FACTOR

That’s exactly what we saw in Charlottesville and in remarks later in the week at Trump Tower.  Here’s a bit of the transcript of what Donald Trump said:

 

“Trump: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and you have- You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.

[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]

Trump: Go ahead.

Reporter: Do you think what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?

Trump: Those people, all of those people- excuse me. I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.8

 

Do you see what’s happening?  “Alt-Right” groups sought violence knowing that if anyone took their bait they would score a propaganda victory.  A president cozy with the “Alt-Right”, evidenced in his relationship with Steve Bannon of Breitbart, would certainly paint a different picture, pointing to the “Alt-Left” as equally culpable.  After inciting a riot themselves, everyone who even remotely defended himself would have been swallowed up into a tide of stigma as perpetrators equally with actual perpetrators.  In this respect, those counter-protestors mere made to be fools.

So what would be a better approach?  I think it starts with that rhyme I shared at the beginning.  Should we use it to taunt White Supremacists?  No, that’s not what I’m suggesting.  Remember that malleability of the rhyme?  “a Nazi” could just as easily be altered to read, “transgender”, even if that would be grammatically incorrect.  It wouldn’t bother White Supremacists because they probably didn’t excel in school in the first place.  Use of a rhyme for taunts only invites them to alter it to taunt you.  Instead, it’s useful as an internal mantra, to make you smile and relax.

 

THE INNER MADNESS

Don’t you see?  If you can smile and relax, you’re better able to draw upon your inner madperson to imagine creative ways to catch hot-tempered scaredy-cats off guard… like offering cookies and milk.

Think about it.  Are they really going to go out gracefully by shooting me with a sub-machine gun or beating me with a baseball bat till they end up having their taxpayer dollars pay my disability?  I can see the headlines right now:  “KLANSMEN MURDER TRANSGENDER WOMAN WHO OFFERED COOKIES AND MILK.”

I hope you’re rolling over with laughter at a thought like that.  Of course it’s ridiculous.  That would result in a media coup like no other.  Even if nobody accepts, it makes a great picture for the papers.  After all, if one engages in a war of baiting, the kindest always wins one way or another.

But you can’t get there if you can’t smile and relax first.  You have to laugh.  White Supremacists are already a sorry joke.  That rhyme reminds you of that.  Of course, the ultimate objective of doing something mad like offering cookies and milk isn’t getting killed, of course.  It’s the hope of starting a civil discourse and diffusing tensions.  White Supremacists don’t generally discourse with civility, so that would be the ultimate coup.  Of course, one has to be able to get past police lines to do this and be sure there are others with cameras rolling.  And if not cookies and milk, why not some other good?

More than that, what would happen if we applied Kant’s Principle of Universality which says that right action is that which you can hold to be a universal law, in this case a universal law of kind craziness?  If we all faced a growing force of armed White Supremacists with laughter and relaxation, just who do White Supremacists think they want to fight?  They yell into the air, breathing threats and the rest of us can just look back while eating popcorn. If any of them charges, one can play it like Speedy Gonzalez who runs like the ultimate bait while yelling the untranslatable, “Andale!  Andale!”  Who doesn’t find that hotheaded cat that chases him utterly silly?

It would be nice if we could take belligerent White Supremacists and send them into the desert while Muslim nations send their equally annoying Islamist terrorists.  Let them take out their aggressions in their own Armageddon away from the cities, suburbs, and farms.  Let them fight to the death for what they think is so noble a cause.  Then we could put the last man standing in a museum to show the futility of it all.

That’s not in the cards, of course.  So we’re left to our own creative madness… the ultimate defense.  Laugh.  Relax.  Truth is on your side.  Take the higher road against cowards and you ignite a contagion of example that can make the world a little bit kinder… and America a little bit greater.  Sorry, Mr. Trump.

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___________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured image:  4 fragments of public domain images from Wikimedia depicting protest and violence, all laid out so that the negative space forms a swastika, each arm warning with the Greek word, “thanatos” or “death”.  It’s also reflected in the grey capital “theta”.  But the oval of the “theta” is crossed as a sign of negation with the first lines of the rhyme in this article.

  1. John Kruzel. “Did Confederate symbols gain prominence in the civil rights era?” Politifact (August 15, 2017, accessed August 15, 2017) http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2017/aug/15/joy-reid/did-confederate-symbols-gain-prominence-civil-righ/
  2. Mehta, Guri. “The Winter Pilgrim: A Conversation with Ann Sieben” Parabola, Vol. 42, Number 2, Summer 2017, p. 50.
  3. Ibid, pp 50, 51.
  4. James West. “Vice News Just Released Chilling, Must-Watch Footage From Behind Charlottesville’s Battle Lines” Mother Jones (August 15, 2017, accessed August 17, 2017) http://www.motherjones.com/media/2017/08/vice-news-just-released-chilling-must-watch-footage-from-behind-charlottesvilles-battle-lines/.
  5. William Cummings. “Neo-Nazi featured on Vice News cries in online video” USA Today (August 17, 2017, accessed August 17, 2017) https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/08/17/christopher-cantwell-cries-video/578227001/.
  6. Matt Pearce. “Who was responsible for the violence in Charlottesville? Here’s what witnesses say” Los Angeles Times (August 15, 2017, accessed August 7, 2017) http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-charlottesville-witnesses-20170815-story.html.
  7. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Taking the Bait” Transpire (September 2, 2016, accessed August 17, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/taking-the-bait/.
  8. Christine Wang. “Read the transcript of Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping press conference” com (August 15, 2017, accessed August 17, 2017) https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/15/read-the-transcript-of-donald-trumps-jaw-dropping-press-conference.html.

 

 

 

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When Being “Different” Could Mean Death

By Levi van Wyk

With 11 official languages and a variety of cultures, South Africa should be one of the top symbols of diversity in the world. The keyword here, however, is ‘should’. Like any other country, South Africans formed their own political groups advocating for various problems and personal belief systems, which in turn, either made life more difficult, or better for different people. According to the Hate Crimes Report of November 2016, out of 2,130 individuals surveyed, more than 55% of LGBT individuals said they worry about experiencing discrimination, and more than 41% said they knew someone who had been murdered because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Another Hate Crimes Report survey showed that only 56% of residents living in Gauteng, believe that LGBT individuals deserve equal rights. While most South Africans tend to tolerate the LGBT community in public spaces, in reality, we still have good reason to be wary when it comes to our personal safety.

Personally, I haven’t experienced much discrimination in public, apart from strange looks and awkward tension in gender-specific areas, such as the men’s locker room at the gym. I’m a white, asexual, transgender male, and only 5 months into my transition. I’m lucky to have a fairly masculine face and voice which sounds too deep to be female, but also too high-pitched to be male, making it a bit easier for me to pass successfully. In my early transition months, the general public used to address me as “ma’am”, and I had to politely correct them almost every time. They didn’t seem to ever have a problem with it, apologized and carried on as if they deal with a similar situation frequently. The, dare I say, “good” thing about South Africans, is that many people, if not most, don’t even know that transgender individuals exist, and would confuse transgender males with masculine girls or “tomboys”, and transgender females with feminine guys. I personally feel that, while it’s completely wrong and disrespectful, it can be better in regards to momentary safety and getting away with a few stares rather than being violated against. In general, I believe that most South Africans also confuse “transgender” with “transsexual”. While I can’t talk about a lot of problems in regards to the LGBT community in areas made up of a majority of non-white South Africans, I do know that being openly LGBT in said spaces could sometimes lead to abuse or even death.

While I was in my last year of university, various non-white students spoke about the violence and hate crimes against LGBT individuals in their areas of living, and said that it’s still unsafe to be open about your sexuality and gender identity. In areas made up of a majority of white South Africans, you could expect the same, with perhaps more verbal and psychological abuse. In my experience, white South Africans tend to keep their hate and bias to themselves in public, but would speak their minds where they are with like-minded people. A lot of white South Africans are extremely conservative, but they mostly live away from the cities and keep their focus on politics rather than social science. While the differences in culture vary a lot, it’s important to understand why certain people have certain beliefs. Thanks to Apartheid, education for non-white South Africans was lacking, which still has a huge effect on people’s opinions in regards to social science, sex and gender, and LGBT education. White people are generally more privileged, and can use the internet to educate themselves, where poorer non-white communities haven’t been introduced to proper technology yet. That being said, the previously-mentioned lifestyles and cultural beliefs only belong to a number of people in South Africa, and in no way represent entire cultural groups or belief-systems. Today, many, if not most, South African LGBT support groups and events are led by a majority of individuals of color. Different groups are educating as many people as possible, holding conferences, creating events, and offering support to people who might not have it at home. All cultures will have their “rotten apples”, and I personally believe that LGBT individuals should be equally wary of where and when they are open about their sexuality and identity. Cultural beliefs of all South Africans are in the process of being reformed, and people are becoming more open-minded in regards to others’ lifestyles. While we still have a very far way to go regarding the acceptance of LGBT individuals, we’re at least past the point of absolute inequality.

In previous years, many South Africans didn’t get involved in LGBT-related problems. Unfortunately, at the beginning of 2017, I noticed South Africans’ intolerance and rudeness in regards to LGBT rights spiking online. Suddenly, comment sections were flooded with angry comments from a majority of white South Africans, talking about how the LGBT community exists out of sin and doesn’t deserve to be treated as human beings. While South Africans tend to judge in silence, they speak their minds online, especially if they know they will be backed up by others. With the US election results, many conservative South Africans found reason to be outspoken about their outdated opinions. South Africans were indeed reminded of the LGBT community existing all over the world, but it didn’t stop them from picking the community apart, and finding issues to be judgmental about. While a lot of South Africans don’t exactly understand the LGBT community, they still tend to form negative opinions about the different sexualities, especially towards asexuality. As a result of sexual abuse in my previous relationship, I became sex-repulsed and severely asexual. I’ve been told by various people that I just haven’t experienced good sex yet, or that my views on sex will change when I meet someone better. While I understand that they are simply ignorant on the subject, it still reminded me that I live in a sex-obsessed country. South Africa is one of the rape capitals of the world, with an estimated 30 reported rapes every 60 seconds. Rape culture is also a big problem in the country, with high school boys aiming to have sex before the age of 18, and girls making their skirts as short as possible to feel attractive. All of these problems make being asexual extremely difficult, especially since people tend to believe that asexuality stems from the lack of good sex. It’s unfortunate. While a lot of LGBT individuals come together and celebrate their sexuality and identities, I feel like asexuality is probably one of the least represented sexualities in the country.

South Africa still has a very long way to go in regards to people’s different lifestyles. Despite studies showing that the country is becoming more homophobic, I believe that the country is also getting more diverse with more and more LGBT individuals speaking out about their sexualities and identities. Universities are making LGBT-education mandatory, and schools are starting to see more students transitioning and employing LGBT educators. With time, education and support, I believe this country will change for the better.

 

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African transgender support groups:
 Gender Dynamix
OUT LGBT Well-Being
PFLAG South Africa
Resources for Trans People and Their Partners SA
Transgender and Intersex Africa


Sources:
Theotherfoundation.org: A study of attitudes towards homosexuality and gender non-conformity in South Africa.

The fear of discrimination is a daily reality for most LGBT South Africans, a groundbreaking new report has revealed

Shocking new stats show that South Africans are becoming MORE homophobic.

 

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