Worse Than Janice Raymond

Posted by – August 8, 2009

On a trans blog, during a conversation about Lady GaGa & her being supposedly intersex (information that I didn’t blog, because I don’t think it’s anyone’s goddamn business), I’ve been described as

boyd ain’t no ally, that’s for sure. she’s worse, in a way, than even radfems and the Raymond crowd – the latter are up front with their hatred of trans women. boyd, on the other hand, stabs trans women in the back

and

And yeah, Ms Boyd is a giant problem. Making money off trans women, setting herself up as an expert, and getting stuff so wrong so often.

and

Helen Boyd has some serious boundary and entitlement issues.

all of which is utterly fascinating to me. If anyone has all the money I’ve been making, please do give it back. In all seriousness, though, Betty’s and my finances are joint, & have been for more than a decade, so any money I’m making is helping Betty transition. Which is, you know, the worst thing any transphobic asshole could do – financially support someone who is transitioning. It’s evil, I tell you.

I am occasionally wrong; I’d be suspicious of anyone who claims they aren’t. That I disagree with some people within the trans community nearly goes without saying: if I found one person who agreed with every opinion or “fact” shared within the trans community, I’d stay well away from their confusion. The diversity of the trans communities is one of the things I like the best.

Anyway. All in a day’s work. That I was initially quoted as criticizing the hyperbolic style of argumentation employed by some trans people makes it exactly perfect that I should be called worse than the radfems and Raymond crowd, since it’s – um, hyperbolic.

I am, as others of my dissenters have discovered, very much open to criticism. That said, I will only do so if the person making the charges has a name, and a face, and a track record. I will not argue with sock or meat puppets, and I don’t abide name-calling.

28 Comments on Worse Than Janice Raymond

  1. Leah B says:

    So, how did you reply?

  2. Véronique says:

    I hope Helen doesn’t mind that I replied. I thought those comments were way out of line, and just not connected to reality, as Helen pointed out. It’s like they’re making her a target for their own frustration.

    It was funny actually. The first comment quoted her comment on how trans people sometimes go batshit, and both commenters confirmed the observation. Some comfort anyway, I hope.

  3. Peta says:

    If I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a million times: “Don’t exaggerate!!!”

  4. My cartoon sockpuppet Bookworm Bob says he has been sending all your oodles of book royalties to The Borg via his private wormhole. I told Bookworm Bob to give it back, but he won’t listen to me. ;)

  5. Diane Frank says:

    When people have to defend their identities (or beliefs about their identities) with hyperbole, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for them attack hyperbolically.

  6. helenboyd says:

    this *is* my response, Leah.

    to everyone else: thank you.

  7. helenboyd says:

    Veronique – thanks for the effort, although i fear it just means you are now “one of them” & that’s that. if you take a non-trans woman’s side in anything trans-related, you are Consorting With the Enemy, clearly.

    & Thanks to all of you who responded via Facebook: http://www.new.facebook.com/pa.....oyd?ref=mf

  8. Jude says:

    You do not deserve this sort of attack. I think, perhaps, that you carry a lot of the collective anger of the community towards SO’s who have been less than unconditionally supportive (or downright rejecting), who dared to ask for a voice in a partners gender exploration (or even stood in the way). Few others are out there speaking from and for the SO perspective, so you are tarred with a very wide brush.

    I think I lost my voice, when it comes to the tribe, back in the late 90’s – just realized my beliefs and spin on the whole trans thing were outside the mainstream, and I witnessed the community strip clean the carcasses of those who did not tout the company line. I began to fear (and avoid) talking about stuff except in little corners and safe cubbyholes; I disengaged.

    I tell myself that it’s OK; that I lack the fire in the belly that others for whom being openly trans is more of a daily struggle; and truly, I have not felt the sting of overt transphobia in many years. But I do regret and resent the fact that the community that I have come from seems an unsafe place.

  9. leguin says:

    I admire your ability to have backbone without getting defensive/reactive– to kindly but firmly say “No, thank you,” and give the displaced angst back to your naysayers.

  10. ginasf says:

    Helen,

    I’m one of the people who you quoted at the top of your post. I appreciate what you’ve done to talk about issues of partners of CDs and transpeople—it’s an important topic and one which deserves way more focus within the trans community. I also greatly appreciated how you mentioned my Facebook site about Lateisha Green… thank you again. But I do stand by my statement about entitlement and boundaries. I’ve read a number of pieces by you where I feel you go over a line from ally/partner to ‘noted commentator’ on the trans experience. I’ve had close lifelong relationships with many gay people but I hope that doesn’t make me feel entitled to say/write public statements about who they are and what they go through, much less critique them. Moreover, I suspect were I gay, I wouldn’t want my straight friend (or even my bi friend) to suddenly become a kind of spokesperson for my experience.

    The ‘entitlement’ part of my comment came from your attack on Vanessa, someone who I have profound respect for and someone whose statement about the Lateisha Green verdict I total agreement with (how some mainstream GLBT organizations ‘spun’ it to their own advantage, ignoring whether it was truly a just verdict or not). I don’t recall Vanessa mentioning you or attacking you in any of her posts about this, yet you felt entitled to mention her and rip her in yours. Moreover you, as a queer woman, extrapolated your own ignorance of anti-gay crimes to suddenly proclaim people in the trans community pay no attention to those crimes (when, in fact, Vanessa is very aware of wider LGBT hate crimes than most people in that community). It was a cheap shot. Moreover Helen, a lot of times you make statements about the trans community/trans experience which I just don’t find terribly informed and find myself feeling “I really wish she’d researched that or run it by more people who are affected by what she’s writing about.” No, I don’t think you have anything to do with Janice Raymond and I could imagine having tea and cakes with you (but I would forgo teatime with Ms. Raymond, despite some other valuable work she has done).

    Here’s my issue with you as a ‘spokesperson’… you have a very specific valuable viewpoint as a queer-ID’d woman, which you are totally entitled to. You have a very specific valuable viewpoint as the partner of a transgender woman which you are also entitled to. What I don’t think you’re entitled to is as a commentator on the wider trans population and issues about how they interact with the world. Yes, there is hyperbole therein (and even what might be characterized as screeching) in the trans community. While I don’t think it’s always helpful when discussing important issues it is a part of any impassioned debate about what are often painfully personal and life and death issues which affect marginalized communities. Maybe it’s your own gender ID speaking, but when I hear it dismissed by someone who’s, yes, on the outside, it takes on some of the condescending tone men take when they’re winking about their wives’ ‘over-processing’.

  11. SavoyTruffle says:

    Yeah, ok. Helen is hardly on the outside of this community, if there is even such a well-defined thing. Maybe she’s outside of your experience. Great. What, no one is supposed to comment, rather rationally, on what happens unless and until they have the specific experience you have? Are you kidding me?

    Damn. I guess that means you shouldn’t comment about Helen’s comments, unless you share her exact experience.

  12. helenboyd says:

    Gina

    Since I assume your comment wasn’t the Janice Raymond one, & the one about boundaries & entitlement, I’ll respond – although of course I’d much rather hear from people when they think I’ve taken a mis-step at the time it happens.

    First, I let Vanessa know about my piece. It wasn’t a stab in the back – or at least she hasn’t told me as much. We’ve been friends a long while, and she has been one of the kindest and most welcoming people about my voice being heard, in fact. So first: please don’t fight Vanessa’s battles for her. She & I have had disagreements over the years, but we both (I think) also know that we respect each other a great deal.

    & I stand by what I said in that piece: that sometimes the trans community forgets it is part of the larger LGBT, & that violence against one of us is violence against all of us. You & I aren’t going to feel safe when men are gay-bashed (for being gay or for being feminine, or both). As you may already know, I have been a kind of honorary member of the LGBT for long before I met Betty, and one of the greatest chasms, in my opinion, is between trans people and gay men. I do not speak of their experience. But I think I can say, safely, that I have met more trans people than most people have. I don’t speak FOR them, but of them, & whatever power I have in this community I tend to reflect back – whether by creating our forums or by creating Trans Group Blog. That is, I do what I can as an ally to get trans voices heard – even if they don’t always take me up on it.

    I do want to hear from people when they think I’ve over-stepped or misrepresented their truth – or the truth as they see it. I’ve been committed to being a better ally for a long while. So do let me know, in a reasonably kind way, that gives me some credit for not being an asshole, in future, & I’ll think about it & do what I can.

    But I certainly can’t “fix” anything when people are only criticizing me elsewhere & not bringing stuff to my attention.

    Capiche?

  13. ginasf says:

    Thanks for overstating what I said Savoy. Yes, I do agree that, before we critique communities, we better have some direct experience/cred within those communities. Otherwise we get white commentators on Fox News talking about the Black Community because they’ve studied black people for years, straight people generalizing about gay people because they have a gay friend and ‘born transsexuals’ making gross, demeaning generalizations about crossdressers or genderfluid people. Helen is part of an aspect of this community… doesn’t give her cred to make broad critical generalizations about parts of the community she’s not directly connected to. Writing a book or two doth not an ‘expert/spokesperson’ make. Do I think all partners/families of transpeople (supportive or not… who’s to judge) get to make statements in public forums about trans people’s behavior? Well, look at a past Dr. Phil show and they had a 21-year old young woman ripping on her transparent. While I hope I can acknowledge her pain and confusion, is she part of the trans community and gets entitlement to broadly criticize that community because her parent is trans?

    The issue of who is a part of the ‘transgender’ community is a complex one. Just like asking, is someone who is 1/2 Japanese entitled to critique the Samoan community because they’re both Asian/Pacific Islanders? Maybe, maybe not. Hyper-inclusive meta-communities have more power/visibility because of their larger size and breadth, but will always be prone to it’s members complaining how little they have in common with other people in that large pool, issues of entitlement and, yes, boundaries and those being marginalized within the group. Btw, I wouldn’t make public comments about Helen’s relationship with Betty because… that’s right, I’m not them and don’t really know what’s going on with them. I will respond to comments Helen makes involving communities I’m a direct part of.

    Neither did I think it was appropriate on Questioning Transphobia to suddenly bring up Helen’s views on a thread that really had nothing to do with them and I apologize for joining in on the derailing.

  14. helenboyd says:

    the point I forgot: when I’m in LGBT spaces, I really don’t want it assumed that we are hostile toward gay men because we’re a trans couple, which is why I try to make a point of bringing gay men’s issues to trans people’s attention – and vice versa. It is, no doubt, easier for me to see us as a group – since I”m honorary in so many ways, except when people remember to add the Q.

  15. helenboyd says:

    Gina & ST – this is the interesting parts, & the part of the conversation I want people to have.

    What are the roles of allies?
    How has identity politics change who is “allowed” to speak for anyone?
    Who gets to certify whom as a spokesperson?
    Is there a problem with a community that is self-silencing?

    Marti Abernathey & I are now working on a project about this stuff which hopefully be the Missy Elliott response: “…and to those of you who hated, you only made us more creative.”

    Which is how it should go, imho.

  16. ginasf says:

    Thanks for the response, Helen. Fair enough statement about not fighting Vanessa’s battles, although she wrote several posts about what you said about her that made it sound as if she had big problems. So, while I’m glad you’re buds, but only speaking for myself, that kind of friendship I don’t need. The issue of the verdict on the Green case did affect me since I created a FB page about the trial/case at a time when it received little coverage with 6,300+ members and two other organizations piggy-backed onto it after it was already well on its way. Those two organizations both declared the verdict a big victory in spite of the fact a clear murder was deemed to be no more than manslaughter. This is something which, as Vanessa well knows, has happened repeatedly in the murder trials of those who brutally killed in our community, especially transwomen of color. Yes, one murder affects all, but when the problems which happen to specific segments of a larger community, it does that community no benefit to ignore why that part of the community is clearly marginalized and it’s murders are clearly not treated by the legal system nor media the way the equally horrible murder of, say, Matthew Shephard was.

    Nor did you have any business blaming the trans community for their supposed ignorance of anti-gay murders you nor most other LGB members didn’t know about. I wrote as much at the time in your cross-posting on Trans Group blog (with no response from you… so, hey, I tried). Trans activists, whatever their other (ahem) behaviors, are way more connected to issues of broader sexual orientation/gender-based hate crimes than any other segment of the larger LGBT community. Why not write about how white gay or bi people or Queer-identified people overwhelmingly know little about hate crimes especially those happening in communities of color? I think that’s a little closer to the mark of where you’re coming from. I have issues when someone who might not have the historical perspective of these trials says “this = this” and, hell no, it doesn’t. I capiche, but that doesn’t mean ‘agree’ nor ‘respect’ what you’ve written in Italian or any other language.

    I don’t recall ever calling you an ‘asshole’ and if someone else did, then they need better manners and a sense of boundaries.

  17. helenboyd says:

    Gina

    First, I’ll give Vanessa a holler & we’ll figure it out, though your point is interesting. I love friendships where we can argue fiercely & still respect each other at the end. I love Vanessa’s un-ending anger and frustration, & I assume she knows that. I thought her “mute trannies” post acknolwedged a lot of the points I made without dismissing my right to make them.

    Do you know that there are people within the trans community who see the murders of trans POC who are also sex workers as proof that they’re “safe” to go out? That is, that these people are killed because of a combination of class + race + labor, & that gender has little to do with it?

    I ask that only because, again, which audiences we’re speaking to matters. When I post about a white gay man who was clocked because he’s femme, that’s going to connect to the average CD in a way that they pay attention.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t publicize all of the violence against trans POC, because I do, & you know that. IN THIS ONE INSTANCE, I wanted trans people to understand that gay/queer/gender-baited bashing is on the rise ACROSS THE BOARD. (which it is, as is racism.) The manslaughter charge was pathetic, but Sean Kennedy’s murderer got almost no time at all. I’d say the Shepard murder was an exception – an exception, I might add, made that way by the loud participation of an ally – his mother.

    That doesn’t make the Green verdict “right.” It does make it a tiny, maybe Pyrrhic, victory.

    So in a sense what I’m saying is don’t assume I’m ignorant of the points you’re making even if I disagree with your “take.” These trials are hugely emotional for all of us, in different ways, and taking out our anger on each other instead of reserving it for the system that throws us & our loved ones away is a mistake, imho. & I’ll stand by that. I’ve always felt that those closest to the victim should make their case – & that everyone else should publicize their efforts. That’s what I did.

    If I spoke “for” her, or in some cases even “about” her, I’d be accused of sticking my nose in something I don’t know anything about, right? So what would you have me do?

    I feel no anger toward you about any of this discussion, & I hope you don’t either. The point I have been trying to make is that many of us who are engaged are already wrestling with issues of community & identity, belonging. I try not to step on toes though I have no doubt I do, sometimes. But what I don’t do, or try not to do, is tell anyone else that they do, or don’t, have the right to be engaged and be trying to do *something.*

  18. ginasf says:

    Helen, transpeople have tried “talking nice” with Gay-led groups—many, many times over. That’s a bit like saying “you know, if black people would just speak like us and behave, then they could be part of our organizations and we could work on fighting racism together.” Maybe on some level practical advice, but totally ignoring the pink elephant in the room… the white organizations fighting for social justice have their own institutionalized racism built into them. This is an entirely apt analogy for GLB organizations as well. (nor would I ever deny institutionalized homophobia, racism and misogyny which has existed in various trans-related groups as well).

    Spokespersons and leaders… a complex issue. Purely speaking for myself, just because someone is in Washington DC, was a honcho before transition or wrote a book doesn’t make them my spokesperson. Personally, I trust someone like Vanessa to speak for me (and, believe me, we don’t agree on everything) because I know the repeated sacrifices she made over a long period of time with absolutely no salary/short term benefit. And she did it when there was zero support from the LGB community much less mainstream society nor hip cred to be gained.

    Allies are important… critically important, but I don’t feel it’s appropriate for them to speak for the actual members of the group they’re allied with much less critique them. The people who are directly impacted with the injustice need to have their own clear voices no matter how messy they might at first seem. Not interpreted/pre-digested by well-intentioned people who haven’t walked in their shoes (and that goes for Oprah, 20/20 and Tyra as well). I hope you continue to speak for the experiences of trans allies and partners and how they related to inclusion within larger communities.

    Personally, if gay men or lesbians need to have a tough conversation with the trans community, I would rather hear it directly from them. Yes, there will likely be shouting and even screeching, but it’s all part of a process which needs to be gone through (and can’t be smoothed over). My apologies for monopolizing your thread, but I needed to say it directly to you and not through third sites, passive-aggressive statements and innuendo. And I would hope you would do the same with Lisa on Questioning Transphobia.

  19. helenboyd says:

    Do you want a spot on TGB? Send me a gmail address for you by email & you’ve got it. I’m very heartened by this whole conversation.

    That said, I don’t barge into threads in someone else’s scene. I get talked about lots of places I don’t participate, & I think it’s rude to go barging in & complaining it’s not fair when someone says something mean about me. That said, it’s public information & so I will comment on it here. Honestly, I wouldn’t have even seen it if someone hadn’t pointed it out to me (which honestly, I wish people wouldn’t do, but that’s another post entirely).

    But I do think I have the right to address posts about me in my own universe, which is what this is, & in this case, I’m glad I did.

    & I agree with you about Vanessa.

    (I’m actually on my way out shortly, so any ongoing responses I’ll have to come back to much later tonight.)

  20. Diane Frank says:

    I agree with Savoy–

    The answer to bad commentary by people not from a group is not to tell them to shut up, but to respond with a factual rebutal. Nothing less is acceptable in a society that places any value on free speech. Further, this is just another part of a continuing game that isn’t just about theory discussions but about disenfranchsing non-trans people from their experience (frequently negative) of transpeople. Finally, it is an unchangable reality that people outside groups do observe behavior and language, draw conclusions about a group and speak and write about them. Attempting to police this with anything other than more free speech is both futile and politically immature. It didn’t work for any other minority group, and trans activists repeating the mistakes of the past is surely evidence that they are only human and have no exemption, either personally or a group from critical analysis of their narratives.

  21. helenboyd says:

    for the record, Vanessa & I are good, as I suspected.

  22. On your boards I’ve been insulted and attacked many many times…..
    I discussed with you privately that the entire “cis” concept was one that othered transwomen from women and thus would prevent a full transition. One of the worst ideas to come down the pike in a long time.

    As for being misunderstood and attacked by trans people, welcome to my world. Sucks doesn’t it?

    Vanessa and I disagree on a lot of things too, but she is one of those few trans activists it is possible to do so with and still remain friends…….and we have had epic disagreements over the years and still count each other as friends. That, sadly, isn’t even remotely possible with most within trans communities.

  23. helenboyd says:

    radicalbitch – since i don’t have another name for you handy – your point is well taken. & yes, vanessa rocks. she’s responded via my FB pages (which i linked to above).

  24. helenboyd says:

    I’m deleting any & all personal attacks in these comments (& really, anywhere else they appear where I have the ability to delete them. Enough.)

  25. SavoyTruffle says:

    I apologize; I was not being particularly rational or helpful.

  26. and I don’t abide name-calling

    Neither do I……I won’t make the mistake of a comment here again.

  27. helenboyd says:

    did you notice the deletions?

  28. Really, how misinformed do someone have to be to think that you’re worse than Janice Raymond, Helen? As misinformed as a Republican Anti-Choice fundamentalist Christian tea bagger? Yeah, sounds about right.

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