But one attack I find difficult tolerate comes from people who criticize my column’s existence in the first place — complaining that it’s written by a white, straight, cisgender male; a voice they feel is ‘inappropriate’ in a sex positive environment.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a controversial article on whether or not transgender people should be allowed to change the sex on their birth certificates.
It drew a lot of comments — many of them angry and frustrated — and opened my eyes to a lot of different perspectives on the issue. Ultimately, the debate revealed that something I thought was cut-and-dried turned out to be a lot more complex than I’d imagined. My opinion was challenged and my attitudes changed by the experience. But, during the discussion that took place on the EdenFantasys community forum, not all of the comments were constructive. While many challenged what I wrote, some objected to the fact that I wrote it in the first place.
“It’s inappropriate for cis-gender people to sit around and talk about what legal hoops transfolk have to jump through,” one critic complained. “It’s like asking a bunch of former Jews about how, for historical accuracy, their driver's licenses should be marked with little gold stars.”
Now the holocaust reference is repellent enough — but I also find the notion that there are topics certain “types” of people aren’t “allowed” to talk about deeply troubling.
Don’t get me wrong; I do kind of get it. In everyday life, so much of the discussion is dominated by the demographics with privilege and power (typically white, straight, cisgender men). I understand that it must be frustrating to have that same demographic opinionating in an environment many forum members consider ‘safe’ from the inequalities of privilege and power.
But when we signed up to be a part of the sex-positive community, we were supposed to leave our skin color, sexuality and gender at the door. What matters here are words and opinions; not what continent your ancestors were from, or what is swinging (or not) between your legs.
Apparently, there are some people on the Internet who disagree.
Repeatedly, I’ve been challenged online, not because of my opinion, but because of my gender, my race or my sexuality (or the unforgivable combination of all three).
These critics have informed me that the reason I disagree with them isn’t because I think they’re wrong, but because my “position of privilege” means I can’t possibly understand the issue like they can.
Other times, they’ve told me I have to “acknowledge and deal with” my privilege and power before it’s appropriate for me to join a discussion — demanding I apologize for who I am before I’m even allowed to have an opinion. They’ve even argued that my mere presence in a discussion thread can create an inherently “hostile” environment — whether or not I’ve written a word. And these people seem to be passionately oblivious to just how hypocritical their attitude is.
In the real world, they’d complain about a golf club that didn’t accept black members, or a gentleman’s club that wouldn’t admit women — but they’re committing exactly the same kind of discrimination online. It’s the inequalities of the real world, perhaps, which have made them think that this is acceptable. Outside the Internet, they’re the ones being discriminated against (in all honesty, probably by white, straight men). I understand it must be tremendously empowering to be able get their own back online.
But that doesn’t make it right — or excuse the many people in the community who enable their behavior.
I mean, I get that white, straight men are frequently considered the “bad guys” by feminists and activists; but that doesn’t make it acceptable to discriminate against them. It’s equally wrong to ridicule their complaints with sarcastic phrases like “Oh noes, what about teh menz?” In fact, it’s “teh menz” that’s really at the heart of this issue — and why I’m speaking out against it. To me, the people who object to me joining the conversation because I’m white, straight and male also object to the concept of me as an individual.
To them, I don’t have a mind and opinion of my own. I’m just part of a big, heaving, homogenous lump of white/straight/men who all speak, act and discriminate as part of a Borg-like collective.
And that’s offensive: The refusal to recognize me as an individual and instead judge me as nothing more than a tick in some demographic survey box. These people act like I don’t have thoughts, emotions and experiences of my own — that I’m controlled by some giant remote tuned into the frequency of my skin color, sexuality and gender. It’s a dangerous mentality — the same one, in fact, that resulted in states like Florida banning gay people from adopting kids because “all” gay people are apparently unsuitable to be parents. It’s the same attitude that inspired Donald Trump to demand President Obama’s academic grades — because “all” black people require some kind of affirmative action to succeed academically. It’s this attitude that even prevented women from serving on the front lines for decades — because “all” women are incapable of being effective soldiers.
Bloggers and contributors who judge me because I’m white, straight and cisgender male aren’t actually any more evolved than the racists, sexists and homophobes who judge minorities in similarly blinkered ways. The “sex positive” individuals might think they are — because their discrimination is condoned by “politically correct” society — but at the end of the day they’re just as judgmental, just as prejudiced and just as wrong.
Which is why, even though I’m white, straight and cisgender male — and even though it’s considered “inappropriate” for me to talk about issues like this — I’m going to keep on doing it.
Because I want to be treated like everybody should in this beautiful, vibrant community we’ve built — as an individual.