Friday Philosophy: Then they came for the N word

First they came for the K word.  But I didn’t mind.  The few people I knew who were Jewish were nice enough and knew their place in the world and they didn’t bother me, so I didn’t need to bother them.

Then they came for the N word.  Again, my humor didn’t include blackface and anyway I thought jokes based on the stereotyping of black people were vulgar.

When they came for the C word, I got pissed.  And then someone told me it wasn’t just the C-word, that there were other words that women objected to just as much.    

Really?  The C-word, B-word and the P-word?!?!

My whole comedy game relied on me calling people c**ts and b**ches and pu**ies.

◊  ◊  ◊

When they came for the ethnic slurs, I kind of understood.  After all, I have an ethnic group, too.  When’s the last time you saw the Scandinavian portrayed as the smart one in the characters in a movie or on television?

Fags and fairies?  Dykes?  My god.  Now they went too far.  If I can’t make fun of femmy men and butchy women, I thought I was going to die!!!!

Are they going to next tell me it’s not funny to pull the crutch out from under a lame-o?  To make hand-signs when talking near someone who is blind?

But Gawd Damn it, I draw the fuckin’ line.  Men in dresses is funny!!!!  Milton Berle?  Jonathan Winters?  Aunt Blabby?

I’m not just any comedian, mind you.  I’m a talented amateur.  I can be almost as funny as those guys.  Of course, I missed the point when I started thinking it was people who were born men and wore women’s clothing and lived women’s lives that should be the target of that humor, rather than poking fun at the view men have of what women are like.  But I’m just human.

And men who are born male are destined, in my mind, to be men forever.  It doesn’t fuckin’ matter why they decided to become women.  I don’t care.  They are the last scrap of humanity I have left to make fun of and this is the line in my sandy philosophy that I am going to draw.

And nothing that you do or say is going to change that.

Don’t mess with my Freedom of Speech.

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One of the saddest things in my existence is that people who think as I have written above are never going to listen to me with any degree of respect.  Heck, since I’m a known transwoman, they most likely won’t even read this essay.

My first diary at Daily Kos was on September 25, 2005.  In it were these words:

I have been annoyed at some of the intended humor.  There is not a post about Ann Coulter that doesn’t have at least one comment accusing her of being born a man.  Whether it is true or not (not, from what I have seen), this is apparently a severe offense in the eyes of those making the comments.  I’ve got to tell you that this attitude offends me. While it is true that many transsexual people do try to hide their past, which might seem to make them fair game to some people, there are many of us who are proud of who we are and what we have accomplished during our lives and would take kindly to you knocking it off, if you please.

So here I am, some 255 diaries later and what have I encountered this holiday season?  Day after day of exactly the exact same shit.  It has made for one of the most disappointed holiday seasons I’ve ever had, and that’s out of a lifetime of 60 years of holiday season disappointment.

I get that you don’t care about the quality of my life, as long as you have your freedom to be funny, even when nobody thinks the jokes are funny but you.

But the thing of it is, as the old saying goes, is the most important thing about humor is timing…and location, the two most important things are timing and location…and delivery.  Timing, location and delivery.  Three most important things.

What sort of mind is required to think that the most important time and place to deliver a put down of transfolk is at a political blog when people are talking about the fact that this particular group hasn’t even been able to get on the radar of the discussion of equal rights?

Do you really think that dragging us down helps?

I wish I could find the comment someone made this past week, about the people who claim that they aren’t trying to slam us because we are like Coulter, but rather to slam Coulter by accusing her of being one of us.  The illogic inherent in that kind of thought is staggering.

◊  ◊  ◊

Blocked Vision

Do You Care?

You do not live my life.

Do you know the ways

we are unequal?

Can you name one way

in which I am free

from discrimination?



Public accommodations?

Hate crimes?

There are damn few places

we have such protection.

Must you add

to the stereotypes?

The most likely

cause of death

for one of us

is suicide.

Murder comes in

number two.

This is not about Coulter.

This is about you

and the words you use

and the outcome

of using those words.

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–January 9, 2009

◊  ◊  ◊

My head is pounding from a sinus headache initiated during an outing to the Botanical Garden yesterday.  My heart is aching from the knowledge I just received that my teacher’s retirement fund has lost $84K in value over the past year (Is that three or four years of extra working before I’ll be able to retire?).  And I just know that someone is, at this point, dying to tell me I need to grow a thicker skin.

I’m way ahead of you, having already written a response to that:  On the Thickness of Skin.  For those who can’t be bothered to click on the link, here’s the end:

From Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, wherein one of the methods of distinguishing humans from androids involves a test based on involuntary empathic reactions, through the half-Betazoid Deanna Troi, to the television series Charmed and Angel, empaths have been grist for the fictional wheel.

Empathy is not sympathy.  Sympathy is a way of reacting to someone who is suffering.  Empathy is feeling that suffering as if it were you own.  In it’s simplest form, it is flinching when someone slams his finger in a door.  At it’s most sophisticated, it is their pain in your heart.


Some see it as another form of spiritualism…of the fortune teller variety.  Some call it New Age, though it is as old as the wind.  I rather see it as the basis for compassion.  I see the command that I thicken my skin as a demand that I abandon my compassion.  I will not do that.

When they come and ask me why I didn’t protect you, I don’t want to have to say that my skin was so thick I couldn’t feel your pain.


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    • Robyn on January 10, 2009 at 12:02 am

    …for this being about goings on elsewhere.  It is not what I would have preferred to have written today.

    Luthien Tinuviel asked me if I had written a diary about this before.  My response:

    I’ve written about it more than once.

    Being a transwoman, what I have said has been interpreted as self-serving and not read.

    It’s a sad fact that people are more likely to listen to someone else.

    So LT wrote a diary about it.  Even there people defended the demeaning behavior.

    Here’s one of those diaries written in the past:  I am old and tired, oh so tired…

    I am older…and even more tired.

  1. That portion of a woman that appeals to man’s depravity

    Is constructed with considerable care,

    And what appears to you to be a simple little cavity

    Is really an elaborate affair.

    And doctors of distinction who’ve examined these phenomena

    In numbers of experimental dames,

    Have made a list of all the things in feminine abdomena,

    And given them delightful Latin names.

    There’s the vulva, the vagina, and the jolly perinium;

    The hymen (which is found in many brides),

    And lots of little gadgets you would love if you could see ’em:

    The clitoris and lord knows what besides.

    What a pity then it is, that when we common people chatter

    Of the mysteries to which I have referred,

    We should use for such a delicate and complicated matter

    Such a very short and unattractive word.

    You, and all other educators, have my sympathy. Ignorance is an incredibly abundant resource. Or as Einstein put it: The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.

    Oh, for a cure!

    • Alma on January 10, 2009 at 1:17 am

    assholes.  Lots of them.  🙁

    You have gotten through to people.  Who knows how many?  To me, any we get through to makes it worth it.  Course its not me thats risking myself.  For me its educating (while I’m still highly ignorant, I figure I know more than a lot of cisgendered), activism, and hopfully being around as backup.  

    • Robyn on January 10, 2009 at 1:35 am

    …in Orange.

  2. … to laugh with folks, all together.

    That’s good comedy, a real art, imo.

    I think folks laugh “at” others not out of real humor, but out of a kind of sleazy spitefulness, not without its attractions, mind you.  And at the root of that is fear, I think.  But who knows.

    Sorry this is happening — I think there’s a great deal of negative energy being released at this time and those most marginalized are receiving double helpings.

    I try to read your comments at the orange, can’t always do it, but I’m there, Robyn, I hear you.

    • Alma on January 10, 2009 at 2:30 am

    They got on a roll about the word dick.

    Well I have a funny true “dick” story, and I would rather tell it here than get Robyns diary over there off track.

    When my son was little, probably about 5, he was in the car with my husband.  A fellow in a car cut off my hubby and said hubby said “What a dick”.  My son sat up a little higher trying to see and said “He was a detective?”

  3. …and am my own little ball of nerves.

    But it was very interesting to me that the voice you used for the asshole character was so…clear.  Mine is too, sometimes.


    • kj on January 11, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    spent the long weekend with the winger in-laws.

    i’m happy to say that ‘gay’ is now accepted with some sort of benign regularity, and that had to have taken some sort of examination, as Jessical talks about above, but to what depth or extent i have no idea.  not even sure acceptance is part of it.  (and the word ‘benign’ is used as a measure of balance, as in, no longer accompanied with an automatic frown of disapproval.)

    i know that you have gotten through to my own benign (used in the same way as above) acceptance of transfolk to cause a deeper level of acceptance, something i never would have even considered doing on my own.  what i thought was “good enough” for me (for horseshoes, basically) but nowhere near where i could have gone.  whatever else happens, i’ll remember the time spent under the tree last spring, thinking about your essays, thinking about what constituted ‘identity,’ and the broadening of mind that occurred.

    a while back one of my mantras was “Stretch the Capacity.”  well, that happened because of you, and what you’ve written.  you are directly responsible.   😉

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