Sometimes, speaking online is like having all your teeth pulled.
I should rephrase that. Sometimes, speaking nicely online is like having all your teeth pulled. Often willingly, so you can sit fangless in good company and not upset the mood. Because discussion should be polite, well-intentioned, forgiving of personal foibles, and inclusive.
I am not being sarcastic.
No, really, I’m not. Discussion should be all of those things. It really should. But here’s the nasty little glitch in the Matrix — we’re not just discussing here, us online gender-writers. Okay, some of us are, and that’s awesome and groovy, but a lot of us, a whole lot, are ranting and debating and thinking and raving and theorizing and defending our brand new points of view*. Our right to have rights. Hell, just our right to draw breath.
This butch thing, it’s not easy. And I resent the unspoken code of conduct not to wade in with a flaming torch and ass-kicking boots when someone crawls their way inside one of our journals and starts spreading verbal slime all over the walls. I resent that I’m not allowed to go to bat for my brothers and sisters for fear of reducing this little internet circle to “an unsafe space”. Seriously, that’s not cool. And while I’m all for polite discourse on the subject of whatever, I’m also going to very impolitely point out that there are no safe spaces, not really, not if you’re not willing to stand up and make them so.
Jesus, it took the Stonewall Riots — riots; blood and fists and bricks in the street — just to make a start in butch and queer getting some kind of acknowledgement, some free-thinking room, and now we’re so goddamned nervous of offending our own shadows.
We were born in battle, guys. In hurt and fire and hard, secret places, and we had to fight just for the right to stand next to like-minded folks. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that much has changed in forty-one years. Most of us still have to fight for the right to wear what clothes we like, to date who we want (be it butch, femme, twinkly lady-boy, kinky leatherbound furry, or what-the-hell-ever), and to piss wherever’s safe. To walk unmolested in the goddamned street.
So please, forgive me if I’m not feeling especially inclined to bend over backwards just to make Joe-ignorant or Lucy-asshole all warm and fuzzy when they come into our space, spreading whatever brand of bigotry most appeals. Particularly if Joe-ignorant or Lucy-asshole claim they are a part of our community to start with, because then they should damn well know better.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to do gender my way. I’m not. Do it however makes you happy and more power to you, god yes. What I’m saying is that if you aren’t respectful, aren’t open-minded, aren’t willing to back up and consider that you might have made a mistake by being a fucking moron — myself included — then you sacrifice your right to be treated with any kind of courtesy.
I appreciate chivalry. I admire gentlemanliness (and gentlewomanliness). But I also thoroughly endorse thrashing the metaphorical hell out of anyone deserving in a good old-fashioned, well-crafted, blistering debate. And I really, truly, throughly do not care if fragile egos and delicate feelings get hurt in the process because, Christ, welcome to the freakin’ club. Grow some armour; build some character; experience some empathy, jackass.
Here’s the thing, we have come a long way from Stonewall, but we still have the absolute right to defend every last inch of ourselves, head to toe, inside and out, internet spaces included.
And seriously, if you find yourself changing the subject, you just lost.
ETA: In the spirit of brilliant timing, JB just threw up a guide to the art of argumentative shut-downs. How’s that for a hive mind?
*And a lot that aren’t brand new, if I’m honest.