Truescrum and the 1% — Growing old and picking the right battles
In the depths of late 90s internet websites, probably still hunkering down on archived Geocities servers, sits my trans awakening. Sit stories, ideas, half baked ideas, and moments that defined my personal apotheosis into womanhood. I saw a snapshot, white, middle class, able to articulate their experiences. Mostly middle aged, mostly people decades older than me. I sat, absorbed, and tried to navigate my own identity, and then when my rubber hit the road, I careened head-first into every gender brick wall possible. All without anyone really explaining to me why I was making so many faux pas. It was a time of medical exceptionalism, where to get any form of help and support you really had to go to your GP and say you were in the wrong body, at which point you would be ping ponged through a landscape bereft of comprehension until you landed at the feet of the gatekeepers. If you passed, you truly felt like the 1%, and this was the aspiration you sought. To be amongst that 1% where all your worries would melt away.
Oh how the Fates have laughed, as fast forward twenty years and this really is true scum territory; namely, the idea that the only path to gender happiness is to transition from one gender to the other, have confirming surgeries and take hormones, and settle into a normalised life as your confirmed gender. Part of me still buys into that, but, now it is the idea that all gender identities must be normalised, not just a singular binary. The journey from teenage bumbling to middle aged grit is strewn with conversations, videos, and Reddit posts, but also with compassion, understanding, and people taking the time to shift my perspective.
Which leads me to Contrapoints and the wide world of the interwebs. There is nothing smugger and more infuriating that an experienced person dispensing wisdom from on high, that back in the day everything was pink gin and lemonade. No, it was not. It was a wild west beyond the bounds of the law, without protection or compassion. Where to be anything other than the 1% was to be the butt of jokes, ‘sympathetic’ news stories, and general shock and awe. Yet, for all the possible drama, the pre-hyper internet broadband always switched on social media landscape at least allowed you to fall through the cracks and grow the fuck up without every little thing being held against you. God knows what my life would be like if every mistake or misstep I made had a mega-watt bulb shone on it. Every single person says and does things they learn and grow from, and I will be the first to say that I have made some pretty spectacular fuck-ups in my time. Given all that, I have to ask the question of myself, can I really get behind the cancel culture of people like Contrapoints, or am I guilty by association for thinking that I can still learn from Natalie?
One of my first and abiding lessons on social media was never post anything that you think will come back to haunt you. Rule number one, and one that I will religiously preach to the heavens. My social media presence is in effect a cordon sanitaire, where everything I post should amplify me, rather than be a source of pain later in down the line. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as is Google’s caching, so there are still moments where I invariably trip up and post things that five years down the line can be misjudged. Yet, unlike 1984, simply erasing something will not completely erase it from the internet’s memory, at which point someone will invariably take it out of context and spin it in such a way that the worst will be thought of you. Which is why I agree with Natalie’s perspective on this.
I am eight months late to the party, and much water has flowed under this bridge. Why dredge a perilous channel, why risk any sort of backlash? Simply put, I am approaching 40, have a fuck ton of personal privilege, and if I don’t stand up for what I perceive as injustice I don’t know what other battles are worth fighting. At no point have I been perfect, and to pretend there have been no teachable moments in my life would be a lie. Thus, to point a crooked finger and shout ‘burn the witch’ at people for stating something honest feels hypocritical.
What about your refusal to engage with J K Rowling or R Kelly I hear you cry. What about all the times you rail against politicians and business folk you scream with pitch forks raised. What about them? Are you honestly comparing a genuine attempt by people within the trans community to engage and have a discourse with people who genuinely deserve to be castigated at best and ignored at worst. It smacks of bullying and bandwagoning, brigading in faux anger because something someone said is taken so far out of context as to be base. Look at your own social media and tell me there is not one post that someone could not do the same with. I’ll wait.
The high ground is such a great place to be, I love it. Cozy and snug above the fray, knowing that you are ‘right’ and those down below are ignorant. Except, if you look behind there invariably will be higher peaks and mountains that others are climbing, and if you remain static in your smugness, they will crow down at you. My journey from 90s wunderkind to middle age battle axe has been a continuous search for deeper meaning and understanding, with the singular knowledge that I pretty much am John Snow at this point. I know a little, but there is always so much more to learn.
Yes, cancelling and ignoring truly toxic behaviour is sometimes the only way to deal with an issue, deplatforming can have an effect. But, and this is a harsh lesson, if you cancel or deplatform for a slip it takes the sting out of the very notion. If you cancel every single person who says something you disagree with you may as well cancel the internet. Every platform, every account, every person you encounter will invariably have an objectionable idea or thought that you can take umbridge at. Part of growing older is realising that you probably will only ever have a handful of really close friends, and the rest will ebb and flow through your life. You have to choose which battles to fight, which battles to walk away from, and which conflicts need the UN to resolve. Learning which is which saves so much time and energy.
You do not have to agree with everything anyone says. Hell, I am always the first to engage in conversation to work through issues and ideas. The hard part is disentangling their ideas and thoughts from their core persona, the central part of who they are that you want to stick around. Social media makes this infinitely harder because you have to make snap judgements and rely on other people’s judgements to assess a situation. Natalie herself raises this issue in her January 2020 video, and her salient and lucid deconstruction of this issue is well worth the time. You do not have to agree with her, but is it truly worth cancelling her or others for one or two parts of their ongoing dialogue?
Age is not a panacea for wisdom, getting long in the tooth does not make you the wisest owl in the shed. However, I believe it does bring perspective. In particular, it lets you see the hot mess that most of these cancelling moments are. Flashes in the pan that burn to the ground any hope of teachable moments. Movements are not built on the back of cannibalising our own; rather, they take leadership, risk, and the occasional slip to progress. If we continue to cancel those who try to progress the cause, all we are left with is a vacuum that will be filled by those who despise and hate us.
So yes, by all means call out bullshit where you see it, but pick the battles that are worth fighting, and not with those who are standing up and trying to engage the world. Ill behaviour should be all means be squished, but missteps, isn’t it better to help and educate than lash and brutalise? Save the big guns for those who truly need them, for bringing Hogwarts down requires more than a Twitter storm.