The Tree That Would be a Bridge

A tale of self-sacrifice.

Once upon a time, there lived a tree.

This tree grew up like any other tree.

Her roots planted firmly into the ground,

She grew up tall and she grew up right,

And took in each day and absorbed all its light,

Casting shadows, where her fruit fell,

To feed the creatures at night.

But this tree was special,

She saw things a bit differently,

Like you and me, this tree could see,

And she knew an important thing.

She wasn’t the only tree in the world,

There were others, so many others.

She was happy for the few that surrounded her,

Even though they were very different from her.

But so many were on the other side of the creek,

And many, she saw, looked just like her.

“Other trees like me,” she thought,

Stretching her branches wide.

When she noticed across the river,

On the other side, those other trees who looked..

Like her, did the same.

It took some time, trees are very slow,

And very patient, but she raised her branches,

Stretching them tall, and to her amazement,

So did they all.

This repeated for days until finally,

She thought, “I must meet them.”

And began an arduous plot,

She would stretch her branches every day,

Reaching, slowly but surely, to meet them.

Season after season passed, as bit by bit,

She made her way across the creek.

Until suddenly, she felt a sharp pain in her trunk,

And everything went dark.

Other, strange looking trees came,

With their axes and saws,

Uprooting the tree, cut without flaw.

She was aware of it all, aware the whole time.

And there really isn’t an appropriate rhyme,

To convey the horror of this crime.

But, the tree thought,

As she was reshaped into a bridge,

And stretched across the creek,

To help others live,

“There are worse fates for a tree,

than being a bridge.”

And in the fall, when the fruits and leaves,

Of the other trees like her covered her completely,

Like a warm blanket, she felt her wish came true.

And the bridge lived happily ever after.

As for those other strange trees that moved over her, they lived less happily, but the bridge was happy to help them move across the creek, as she had so desperately wanted.

RE: Transcult

An analysis of the trans community through the lens of Steven Hasan’s BITE Model.

Steven Hassan’s BITE (Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotion Control) model has become the standard tool used in analysis of groups perceived to be cults.

This article is going to explore the BITE model point-by-point and analyze what anti-trans activists have been known to call the Transcult.

Before we begin though, we should establish who exactly this group we’re examining actually is.

Immediately, we are met with a challenge in that there is no centralized leadership to this group, and depending on the person hurling the accusation, “transcult” could refer to the entire trans community, anyone who is trans, trans activists/orgs only, or perhaps only segments of any of the above populations. Considering that I have been labeled a member of the transcult and am even on @CultBlockerPro on twitter, a service which automatically blocks “trans cultists,” I must default to analyzing the trans community as a whole.

Behavior Control

Promote dependence and obedience

It would be fair to say the trans community does enforce obedience to some degree, but does not promote dependence. Many unspoken rules are set on ways which we must identify ourselves and one another. Simply calling yourself a transwoman (or heaven forbid, someone else) without the space or agreeing that trans people should be treated any differently than anyone else on the basis of their natal sex can earn you the community’s chagrin.

Modify behavior with rewards and punishments

I think we’re all familiar with the phrase, “stunning and brave” in reference to trans people, which goes to show how prevalent this system of reward actually is, though you’ll only hear things like this when transwomen are behaving appropriately by calling ourselves women. When we behave inappropriately, we are called things like “truscum”, “TERF”, “quisling”, “self-hating”, “deluded”, and/or accused of internalized transphobia as forms of punishment.

Dictate where and with whom you live

This point I’ve never seen any instances of, but I’d be interested to hear about it if anyone has.

Restrict or control sexuality

Toward its members, the trans community is very free when it comes to sexuality. The attitude that sexuality and gender are not linked in any way is very prevalent. In this regard, I’d say no, the trans community does not restrict or control sexuality of its members. However, how we communicate about it is restricted, for instance a transwoman could never openly identify as homosexual and date men without expecting some form of behavior modification, though identifying as homosexual and dating women would be perfectly fine.

Control clothing and hairstyle

Our clothing and hairstyle is controlled, to be sure, but I’d say that comes from society’s enforcement of gender rather than being enforced in any way within the trans community. Non-conformity is actually a lot more celebrated in our community than is perceived from the outside.

Regulate what and how much you eat and drink

Nope, definitely not.

Deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep

Only through my own anxiety over the behavior of our community and activists who wave our flags around.

Exploit you financially

This isn’t something that the trans community as a whole does, but certainly pockets do, though far more often than not, this exploitation is for a good cause that goes to helping people in need, so I’d not even call it exploitation so much as empathy and sharing opportunity.

Restrict leisure time and activities

Nope, not at all. For several years following transition, I had nothing to do with the trans community at all and literally no one cared. I’d say there is a sense of urgency we all experience to speak out and have our voices heard in our movements, but there is no force compelling us to but our own drive to be seen an understood by the world.

Require you to seek permission for major decisions

In some fringe cases, this might be true, but on the whole, I’ve never experienced anything at all like this.

Information Control

Deliberately withhold and distort information

There are certain things the trans community certainly doesn’t like being talked about. Among them being detransition, desistence, typology, questions over the handling of our rights, and anything that makes us seem different/other compared to anyone opposite our natal sex. For the most part though, I’d not call what I see deliberate withholding/distortion so much as just many trans people/activists quite honestly not being very well educated on these difficult topics. I’d advise exercising patience when it comes to talking about these things. Have some empathy and try to build understanding. These things are important to talk about, but very difficult for us, for what I would hope are obvious reasons.

Forbid you from speaking with ex-members and critics

This ties in well with the previous point. Yes, this does happen with regard to ex-members too often, which I’m sad to say leaves them ostracized. I’d say we need to be there for them and support them. They’re still part of our community and deserve our respect and support in what’s probably the most difficult time in their entire lives. Myself and many others would like to see this change. These are all community dynamics though, and not enforced by any centralized authority, they just tend to happen, therefore I’d say not very cult-like. As for critics– there’s much debate over this. Equal numbers would say our critics should be engaged with so we can build bridges to understanding with them as would say they should *not* be engaged with and all bridges should be burned. C’est la vie? Not a cult.

Discourage access to non-cult sources of information

This one’s fair to say does happen, in line with the previous two points, though again I maintain that it follows since these are all issues based in community dynamics and difficulties handling self-critique and does not come from any top-down directive or anything of the sort, it’s hard to make a fair argument this is cult-like.

Divide information into Insider vs. Outsider doctrine

This is a clear yes, and it’s something I deeply dislike about the trans community. There is a deeply ingrained “us vs them” mentality that leads both trans people and activists to view anyone expressing concerns over issues as enemies. Too often, they are far too quick to label the “enemy” as TERF/bigot and use this to control discourse. These are dirty tactics that myself and many other members of the trans community do disagree with, though in the eyes of some of the most extreme-minded among us, opposition to their tactics in and of itself can leave you seen as an enemy. This returns to the earlier points on behavior control, where people like myself are labeled with all manner of aspersions and ostracized from the community.

Generate and use propaganda extensively

This one’s difficult to say, as what would count as propaganda is really subjective. I’d say yes, certain activists/orgs do very much engage in propaganda campaigns, but does the trans community as a whole? I don’t think so, though I’m sure someone could see even my article here as propaganda so who knows!

Use information gained in confession sessions against you

We don’t have confession sessions, so no? Though I’d say I’ve certainly seen DMs and such used against people online. I think that’s typical of most any online community though. There’s never not drama.

Gaslight to make you doubt your own memory

When it comes to the behavior of activists toward their “enemies” outside the community, I’ve seen quite a bit of this, but this aspect of the BITE model is about in-group brainwashing. There’s little to none of that. Sure, there’s the people who like to deny their biological sex and any nuance that comes with it and will give me crap for publicly speaking about the fact I’m male, but as I’ve experienced things, they’re not nearly as prevalent as outsiders like to believe. That’s a loud, extremist fringe of our community. The majority of us are reasonable and realistic about our differences and would never gaslight anyone, inside or outside the community.

Require you to report thoughts, feelings, & activities to superiors

Thank goodness, no… I want nothing to do with authority figures. In fact, I kind of abhor society’s tendency to grant power of authority to celebrity figures. Caitlyn Jenner is not Queen of the Trans People, who cares what she thinks? For goodness sake, stop putting her on television. She’s rich and powerful enough as is. Sorry, just had to have a bit of a rant there.

Encourage you to spy and report on others’ “misconduct”

Again, no, though certain vindictive extremist pockets of the community might engage in this sort of behavior, it isn’t terribly common, especially not from authority figures. I can think of only one trans authority figure who has been problematic in this regard. On the whole, I’d say that the trans community is very free when it comes to information and ideas. I’ve had many healthy, respectful debates among my trans peers over our differing philosophies and experiences of the world. There certainly are pockets that dislike this sort of thing and find it unhealthy/othering, freak out, block you over it, etc. but I and many others would say they’re wrong to do so. So long as there’s a healthy battle of words, and there is, we are clearly a community, and not a cult.

Thought Control

Instill Black vs. White, Us vs. Them, & Good vs. Evil thinking

Unfortunately, yes. There is far too much of this in the trans community. It’s something I firmly believe needs to change. It isn’t good for us. Humans are naturally tribalistic. We all want to be part of a team, and we want our team to win. In that, it’s easy to internalize these attitudes. It’s part of a broader sickness growing in humanity with the rise of social media, particularly Twitter, and I think it’s something we all need to be critical of in every one of our communities.

Change your identity, possibly even your name

Erm.. Well, that’s just part of being trans. It’s not a requirement for anyone, but of course we do it as part of transition. Bit ridiculous to label it cult-like though, I think. It’s not like we’re forced to. It’s something that makes us feel better about ourselves. I didn’t jump off this bridge because everyone else did. I did it because it’s been good for me. I never expected to find all these others swimming in the water here with me, but here we are!

Use loaded language and cliches to stop complex thought

Yes. Of all the points on the BITE model, I think this one is most accurate to the trans community. The “trans women are women” mantra, while something I agree with in certain political aspects, is unfortunately too often weaponized to stop complex thought. When the answer to complex questions about trans issues becomes, “trans women are women and if you disagree with me you are a TERF/bigot,” we have a very big problem. Even if “trans women are women and cis women are women” is a true statement, within it we have acknowledged a great deal of difference. We may as well translate it to, “male women are women and female women are women” to properly understand it. Like it our not, our biological sex and all the experiences/nuance that comes with it does matter and I find it important to defer to our differences when we discuss complex topics. To deny them isn’t only foolish, it denies the entire depth and breadth of our pre-transition experiences; our entire dysphoric life histories. It needs to stop.

Induce hypnotic or trance states to indoctrinate

Nope, not in my experience. In fact I’ve never experienced anything I’d call “indoctrination” at all, only that I struggled in a horrific war with my own body that I sought, and sought, and sought treatment for; I tried everything, no treatment helped but transition very much did.

Teach thought-stopping techniques to prevent critical thoughts

This doesn’t seem so much of a problem with the trans community as it’s a problem with social justice activists. They’re the same ones who tend to take the “trans women are women” mantra far too far and weaponize it as I’ve described above. You’ll see them behaving the same way in all forms of social justice activism, “If a woman/trans person/person of color/etc is speaking, shut up and listen.” I’ve seen several documents written, tossing about dictation on how people should behave when in the presence of any given group that read exactly the same in spite of the fact each is about a different group. It’s an awful, divisive form of activism and I’m not here for it, no matter what form it takes.

Allow only positive thoughts

This one’s fair to peg on the trans community, but I think it’s with the best intentions. A problem I’ve seen is an unwillingness to be critical of our own. I’m not a fan of blindly believing the best in everyone calling themselves part of the trans community. There’s this incredibly regressive idea that our group can/has/could never do wrong. But that simply is not true. We are human, and as such we are flawed. We make mistakes. We need to be willing to own them and be critical of them. Thankfully, these days I’m seeing more and more of that and fewer and fewer uncritical blind eyes.

Use excessive meditation, singing, prayer, & chanting to block thoughts

Hmm.. The only example I can think of here is again the “trans women are women” mantra, which truthfully is more intended to be a counter to the hurtful idea we are men than anything, but as I’ve discussed activists do take it too far too often. I’m sure there are other examples you might find here and there at protests and the like especially, but would you ever call them “excessive”? I think not. They’re fringe.

Reject rational analysis, critical thinking, & doubt

This is one we are split on. As I’ve said previously, I’ve had a lot of healthy, respectful, rational debates with members of the trans community. You’ll find one faction that celebrates all of the above, and another that rejects them.

Emotional Control

Instill irrational fears (phobias) of questioning or leaving the group

This doesn’t seem common, but I’m sure that it does happen, especially when it comes to people considering detransitioning, but I think when that happens it isn’t driven by malicious intent, and instead more often driven by concern for the individual. We might fear someone’s detransition will lead them back to living in constant dysphoric distress or just generally be detrimental to their well-being. I don’t think any of that’s irrational, and I’m sure that it’s exactly what the detransitioner is struggling with themselves. The concern’s valid, but when you think about it, it really only adds to their burden. I’d say the proper response should be to give them all the support and positivity we can muster.

Label some emotions as evil, worldly, sinful, or wrong

Emotions? No, I’d not say anything emotional is restricted by the trans community in any way, unless you count fringe extremists who attempt to enforce that very narrow-minded and misguided view that anyone calling themselves trans can do no wrong and we must be positive and uncritical about ourselves at all times! They’re a bit nuts, I think most anyone would agree.

Teach emotion-stopping techniques to prevent anger, homesickness

Again no, I don’t think either of these apply. I could draw some abstractions, but honestly I don’t think that would be worth my time or yours.

Promote feelings of guilt, shame, & unworthiness

I’m going to be very honest here. Yes, I’m of the mind that the beliefs of too much of the trans community do promote all of the above. In our quests from AMAB/AFAB to becoming women/men, we are at impossible odds, as sex is ultimately immutable, and there’s only so far our transformations can carry us. It helps us a great deal, but it isn’t perfect, and there’s a lot of complexity and nuance that is a constant burden on us, which we are made to feel guilt and shame over. We are taught that our differences are bad. Being “other” is shameful. That living with our differences somehow means we are unworthy of womanhood. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think our experience has a lot to bring to the table. We can speak of what it’s like to walk the world being perceived as both men and women. With that, comes so much complexity I find worth celebrating that too many of us deny. I don’t think this is driven by any kind of cult mentality though, it’s a natural extension of dysphoria. It’s us pathologizing society, and taking our need to pass and be included as women and men too far, to the detriment of both ourselves and society. I’m very critical of myself in this regard and encourage all other trans people to be also. I’ve found that most of us truly are self-critical, it’s the activists waving our flags around who engage in the vast majority of the denial of our differences. We can only hope they listen to us and learn something one day.

Shower you with praise and attention (“love bombing”)

Stunning and brave.

Threaten your friends and family

This certainly happens. It hasn’t happened to me personally, but I have friends it has happened to. Actions like this are nearly universally condemned across the trans community, but individuals and pockets of extremists will engage in this kind of crap. It’s so ugly, but I’m proud of how critical the community as a whole is of anyone engaging in it.

Shun you if you disobey or disbelieve

Yes, again going back to the behavioral control we see from certain extremist pockets of the community.

Teach that there is no happiness or peace outside the group

The only way I can see this applying is again to detransitioners, who might be told they’ll never find peace by detransitioning by people with good intentions who pave the road to hell with them.

Conclusion

And that’s that! The whole BITE model.

So, what do you think? Is the trans community a cult?

On the whole, I’d say certainly not, but we do have a lot of concerning behavior in pockets of our community worth criticizing. You may disagree, and if so I welcome your disagreement (on this point or any other I’ve written here) and am happy to discuss this further.

From my experience of things, it seems far more accurate to declare that there are cults of personality within the trans community that coalesce around certain figures, activists, and orgs and share ideas in echo chambers whilst blocking out any critical voices that might rattle their walls.

As I alluded to earlier, this kind of thing is a sickness we can see springing up all across humanity, in most all of our endeavors recently. Look any discourse over most any political alignment. Western society is deeply divided generally right now. We have a multitude of gaps to bridge, and too many people who are only interested in burning bridges rather than building them. This is way bigger than what we see happening within the trans community.

It’s everywhere, in all things, and I’d say that every community should be mindful of this sort of thing and be willing to apply a critical eye and analyze itself with tools like the BITE model.

I hope that the points of concern I’ve raised can help us build a better community that will move out into our divided world and work to mend those divides rather than deepen them.

Rail Lines

“I don’t want to go anywhere. I like my rails, thank you.”

– Thomas the Tank Engine

There’s no stopping it,

A new town’s always ahead,

A new place, for a new life

Or old ones returning again.

We’ve got time to pass, so settle in,

A train’s motion is not for wasting.

Wagged chins over rattling teacups

Resting in cacophonous carriages

Drown wasted time in dipped biscuits

As folded newspapers remain unread

And whole countrysides pass

Without so much as a thought.

A lonely girl writes in a quiet corner,

Alone but for her troubles, her suite

Better suited to the ghost of a poet

Whose eternity is in motion

Carrying emotion from one cab

To the next, delivering the full force

Of shaking fingers over bumpy tracks

Who just want to get off the line.

A Siren’s Voice

Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?

-Margaret Atwood

She lives in Texas,

..but her mind..

Is..

Everywhere–

..She is connected..

Present and omniscient,

In thousands of places

At once, known

But unknown

Unseen

No one

Anonymous

In a sea of personality

Fragmented

By a fragmented world

Held together

In digital waves

Where voiceless sirens

Drown

Celebrating Black Poets & Black History Month

That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!

This post is going to be a bit different for my blog. On Twitter this month, I’ve been writing a thread celebrating black poets for Black History Month, honoring a different poem/poet each day of the month.

I’m going to transpose the thread here and publish it to my blog. I hope you enjoy! If anyone would care to, I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d also like and retweet anything you enjoy from the thread. Thank you!

Proper Tea

Today is a good day to have a good day.

Today was a tough day,

Sit down I’ll spoil the tea

As is the American way;

Just be simple and flop happy,

Like lettuce on shortbread,

Let us breath in the aromas,

Let us practice eating biscuits

Let us be lettuce together again

Kettles filled again and again

To the brim of the brim

Wits and whims waiting,

Hidden in trees like owls

Who swoop in on better days

When proper English tea

Softens our toughest days..

And the biscuit practice pays off,

Dipped happily in steaming cups.

Roots: Banned

“If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.”

Aldous Huxley

I’ve been permanently banned from Twitter.

Why?

Because I dared to say something true in a conversation on trans ethics.

I was called transphobic for saying that I am transsexual and that as a transsexual, I live in a liminal state of being, where I’m no longer considered what you would call a man but am not expressly female either. I explained there are differences between myself and people who are female that I find value in celebrating for the betterment of both groups.

Following the accusation of transphobia, I responded with the following:

“It isn’t transphobic. It’s just facts of life. Sex is immutable in spite of the fact many sex characteristics are mutable and we do change them. It doesn’t erase our differences or make us actually female.”

And as you can see, this is what I was banned for.

This.

The truth… How dare I..?

Twitter never has been the bastion of free speech, but with this, I think it’s time we face the fact that Twitter’s misgendering policy has gone too far.

Let me make myself perfectly clear. I don’t support harassing trans people with misgendering or deadnaming. Transwomen are transwomen, not men. Transmen are transmen, not women. We are what we are, not what your ideology insists we are. To demand otherwise is to deny reality. We undergo rites of passage to become transmen and transwomen. Not only do we have to come out, but we change our names, lifestyles, bodies, etc. Our entire mode of being changes from one state to another and we transform, like caterpillars into butterflies.

You’d not insist a butterfly is a caterpillar after their metamorphosis. Why would you insist a transman is a woman after his? I get why you’d not want to call him a man, but a transman??

You gain nothing from calling him a woman, and you risk causing traumatic distress in the individual. What is the point? It’s simply rude and cruel to deny anyone their personhood.

That said, we also need to be willing and able to acknowledge the full depth and breadth of our own personhood and all the difference and nuance that comes along with it.

Many are not willing, and I understand why. For binary transsexuals, the goal of transition is invariably to become the opposite sex, but we simply can’t. That’s an inescapable burden for us. Current technology and scientific understanding doesn’t allow complete mutability of human biology. Even so, it can be psychologically gratifying to be understood as a man/woman rather than a transman/transwoman and I completely understand why any trans person would insist they are simply a man or a woman when in fact they are a transman or transwoman.

That much is fine in my view, but to be unwilling to acknowledge our differences to the point it becomes detrimental to others and we begin engaging with the cognitive fallacy of change, it’s time to re-evaluate.

We are well-past the point of re-evaluation. Allies are turning against us because they’re being called bigots for realistically and rationally opining about trans people and issues centered around us.

These conversations are so difficult and nuanced, and it’s never easy to have them, but they are so healthy when they can be had, especially when common ground can be found and agreement/understanding can be built between concerned parties. Concerns tend to build up and ferment in our hearts when left unaddressed, where they turn to anger, hate, and bigotry. Rational debate is a powerful way for human beings to come together, lay those concerns on the table, and work to address them. To deny it is a disservice to ourselves.

…But denying it is now all we’re allowed to do, according to Twitter.

Bigotry has taken the next logical step into fascism in social media. Our concerns have fermented for so long that they’ve now become this. Not only are many still unwilling to acknowledge the nuance of our complex realities, we’re no longer allowed to talk about it. True facts about myself and people like me are now being viewed as hate speech and we are being banned if we dare speak the truth.

I’m not the first trans person this has happened to, nor will I be the last, and as prevalent as our suffering in this is, it pales in comparison to the suffering of women whose hearts are filled to the brim with unaddressed concerns that are going to continue to ferment. If these trends continue, we’re heading toward a bleak future of subjugation. Either a rightfully angry public will turn on us and try to squash us out of society, or we will become the dictators ourselves. We mustn’t allow either outcome.

Twitter needs to re-evaluate this policy and take measures that will allow people the freedom of speech necessary to have these difficult discussions. It’s certainly possible to do this whilst still protecting trans people from harassment and defamation. All it takes is human moderation. As it stands, our behavior is being governed by algorithms.

If Twitter won’t change its policy, we find a new platform, but no matter what, the discourse must go on.

Under the Rug

Good trees make good fruit.

There’s a rug in my living room,

It hides all my secrets beneath

Knitted webs of frivolous fiber

Clinging to the floor, weighted

Tassels like fingers claw at wood

Trying to escape the horrors

Lying beneath, but never able

With opposite ends tugging,

Those twisted fibrous fingers

Pull rebellious rugs into place.

Never pull it asunder, you won’t

Like what you find beneath,

It’ll be 3 stamps, a tree branch

And a man I’ve buried below

Down in the hollow where

Nobody goes, deep in the roots

Where a body lies to my woes

Telling the world I’m something

I’m not, so just leave it alone,

Never pull that rug asunder,

You won’t like what you find

There under, and if you do

You’d best beware, prepare

Yourself for strange affairs

If you pull those knitted ropes,

I won’t be there to help you cope

I’ll be down there, buried beneath

A rotting corpse of a man who sleeps

With false teeth and false everything

Feeding the tree that grows above.

So just sit down, tell me your mood

We’ll leave what’s under the rug

Between the tree and her fruit.