Learning about gender online: Is it possible to avoid drama/trolls?
August 14, 2022 10:36 PM   Subscribe

Do you have any advice for avoiding overly heated responses when attempting to learn about gender identity online? Is it just part of the package I have to learn to deal with?

I guess this is a repeat of an earlier question about finding safe spaces to learn about gender identity.

I have recently figured out that "non binary" is the closest approximation of what I am and how I've been all my life. I am still very ignorant about a lot of the history and context and language.

So many words and terms used in very specific ways that aren't necessarily easy to parse, and definitely not meaning the same thing to different people. Trans misogyny exempt. Transandrophobia. Soft boi. Demi girl. I know what those mean in general, but there are so many of these and their meaning is constantly changing.

I'm finding that no matter how carefully and diplomatically I phrase my questions, I still get called out for being privileged, "angry", challenged as being "actually cis" etc.

Is this just the usual reality of online interaction, people are going to be people?

It's like the escalation from "just chatting" to "accusations of transphobia" is so extreme and fast there just is no space for learning and exploring?

I'm finding the intersection between feminism and trans politics particularly difficult to parse as a lot of pronouncements about non binary people seem deeply problematic and erasing to me.

How do I balance "ignore the trolls" with "actually they might have a point, this is my self defensive fragility getting in the way"?
posted by Zumbador to Human Relations (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
First, I'm really sorry that you are dealing with this. I think what's happening is that there is an issue with TERFs colonizing formerly safe space places, and then folks buying into purity queer culture that is stoked by the TERFs to further alienate queer people. It has been extremely upsetting to deal with in the past several years, and it is very worrisome.

(As a note, to a general reader, not OP: If you're a trans exclusionary feminist reading this who doesn't believe in nonbinary people or trans women, you can fuck off!)

My second question is, where are you learning and talking to people about this? There are so, so many spaces that it is incredibly difficult to answer your question. Like is it on social media? If on social media, what kind of social media? Are these people you know, or new folks? Do any of them work in social justice or with gender related issues?

A place I can recommend as a safe space is Scarleteen, where I used to be a volunteer at, the creator and director, Heather Corinna, has recently come out as identifying as nonbinary, and it's been really great. That forum is really a dedicated safe space with diligent volunteers and staff, and that's a good place to go to ask your questions in privacy. (If it helps, for my background, I've been doing trans and gender inclusive related activism and scholarship for over the past decade, and been struggling with the ups and downs of internet discourse since then, and whew it's wild...)
posted by yueliang at 10:42 PM on August 14, 2022 [15 favorites]

If you're on social media you're probably dealing with people who are literally half your age and dealing with all the fun/drama of identity formation. They probably do not think that people your age are capable of HAVING a gender other than "old."

Also, you are dealing with people who are in completely different geographical locations than you who are the targets of trans panic. This means that people who use hormones and are being denied hormones are not always in the mood to discuss identities that aren't medicalized.

You may be best served by discussing your identity with friends and family or in a very well moderated space as yueliang suggested, not with complete strangers who are using social media as a emotional release valve.
posted by kingdead at 1:14 AM on August 15, 2022 [9 favorites]

Public communities focused on early transitioners and on trans politics are just a mess, especially online. They're more about processing fear and anger than about living life.

(Which, like, ok, some people really have a lot of fear and anger to process, and having a place to do it is good for them. It just means those communities fill up with reactive squabbling, and that builds its own momentum, and then the rest of us get bowled over by it when we step in the door.)

The sanest thing to do is to use those communities to make personal friends or connect with local IRL social circles, and then use those for support. Or if you want to be engaged with early transitioners or with politics, find a community org that works with specific needs in a concrete way that isn't just Talking Online.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:23 AM on August 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

This isn't exactly answering the question, but… I recommend not trying to learn about gender online, for basically these reasons. I personally had much more luck with books and talking to people in person than I did with anything online.

If it really does need to be online, I feel like talking to individual people 1:1 in private is much better than public discussions, and there are things you can look for to indicate that they're more likely to be safe — I don't know how to explain the exact set of heuristics I use, but generally scrolling through what people have said in the past and avoiding people who tell people that their experiences are unimportant or incorrect will get you pretty far, I think.
posted by wesleyac at 7:23 AM on August 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

The backlash against seeing gender identity in new ways is fierce. There's lots of new science to understand gender, lots of ways of seeing how people actually are and always have been, and many people are Not Having It. People who are champions of change can be very harsh.

If at all possible, let other people be champions and advocates for change. You are busy learning and adapting to your understanding of your self. If people are harsh towards you, try to think of them as being vigorous in championing whatever their cause is, and let yourself move on in your pursuits.
posted by theora55 at 10:37 AM on August 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

I think you'd really enjoy the podcast Gender Reveal. I've learned a ton from the show, and they have really great discussions with trans guest of a variety of backgrounds and ages etc.
posted by klugarsh at 10:58 AM on August 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

ENTHUSIASTICALLY seconding Gender Reveal. They approach this stuff with deep curiosity and humanity and zero interest in Winning.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:02 PM on August 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

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