Friday Philosophy: Lack of Respect

I’ve become disgusted the past few days.  Actually it has been coming on for several weeks, but the last couple of days have brought things to a head.

My basic thought?

It is difficult enough to fight the conservatives who wish to deny us equal rights, strip away the few freedoms and liberties which we do have, and even deny us the basic necessities of life, like even the freedom to use a public restroom without having to choose between being arrested or being physically and/or sexually assaulted.

We should not have to battle the slings and arrows hurled at us by those who one would think we should be able to rely on as our friends.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

It all comes down to a matter of respect.  Who deserves some and who has some to give?

Diana Taylor

Diana Taylor thinks she should have been accorded some respect, I’m sure.  She didn’t get any from the Newark Police Department.

Diana was walking down the street and was accosted by two men who had made a $10 bet about her gender.  But these weren’t just any two guys, they were Newark policemen, so they had the wherewithal to demand to see Diana’s ID.  When she told them her birth name, they began disparaging her.  They called her a “chick with a dick”.  They called her a faggot.  They made derogatory comments about her appearance.  And when she threatened to call a lawyer, they arrested her.

At the station other officers joined in the debasement.  They subjected her to a full body search.  When she complained to the lieutenant on duty, she was told, pretty much as it always happens, that she brought the conduct upon herself and boys will be boys:  

They were just busting your chops.

they called you boy

instead of your name

In case anyone thinks she probably deserved this, Diana Taylor’s criminal record is non-existent.

Eventually she was taken from the precinct house to her home, in handcuffs, and threatened with having a local gang deal with her if she filed a complaint against the department.

Diana stood up for herself.  She did file a complaint.  The police responded by charging her with littering and disorderly conduct, charges which were later dismissed in municipal court.

Ms. Taylor is now suing the department, which the assistance of the ACLU, because of the harassment and verbal abuse.

The complaint alleges police violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by stopping Taylor from using public accommodations and retaliating against her when she asserted her rights; infringed on her constitutional rights to be free from unlawful searches; and broke laws against harassment and false arrest. The lawsuit demands that Newark establish proper training, supervision and handling of complaints, and seeks damages for the unlawful actions taken by the police.

waiting, just anticipating

One of the commenters at the news site above had this to say:

I can never understand why a man wants to become a women or visa versa women become a man.  In my opinon there has to be something wrong with their state of mind or maybe perhaps their background, its quiet clear that these type of people are going to take alot of flack as most of us are normal, it’s sad that some people have to do this sort of thing, change sex. I would be very wary of them as you don’t just know what they my be capable of.

Please note that these are own personnal views and no offiance is meant to anyone


That makes it all better, because Paul meant no “offiance” to anyone.

What makes Paul any different from the people at Daily Kos who disparage transfolk…and transwomen in particular.  Because defiling transpeople is exactly what is happening when our identities are used in an effort to slur and/or insult someone who is not trans.  Even if you meant no “offiance”.

Old poem time:

Art Link


My Label is not a Slur

My label is not a slur

My label does not mean

repulsive or obscene

should not induce

revulsion or hatred

I am not subhuman

Different, yes,

but not less than you

I am not “really” anything

except a human being

There are more of you

so we live in your world

rather than one

of our own choosing

Do we threaten you?

Do you fear us?

How did we earn

the ridicule?

How did we earn

the hatred?

How did we earn

your silence?

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–January 31, 2006

Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth…

…when mAnn Coulter accused liberals of wanting her raped???

Maybe schedule a telethon.

Hosted by Mary Matalin and that cute transsexual comedian, Anne Coulter.

I’d like to think that it was hard to find such comments, that one would have to search through weeks of comments.  But those and others like them come from just the past two days.

Ann Coulter is not a transwoman.  We’ve seen her grade school and high school yearbook photos.  Calling her a transwoman is wrong, isn’t it?  And calling her a man, or mAnn, is worse, because it combines the implication that she is a transwoman with the unhidden opinion that transwomen are “really” men.

I am not “really a man”.  I am who I am.

Ann Coulter has never earned the right to call herself a transwoman.  She doesn’t have the courage of someone like Diana Taylor.

The cowards are the people who leave comments like the above and never respond when they are asked why they do it.  But it is even more worse to encounter the people who defend the behavior while total lack of understanding of who we are.

One effort at communication I made the other day drew this response:


WHy why why?

are you so interested in who is transexual?  Is gender that big of a deal with you? Get over it.

Is gender really that big a deal to transgender people???  Really???  Someone would have to ask such a question?

Of course gender is important to transgender people.  Who would fucking have a sex change operation if gender weren’t important?

Of course it is not everybody here.  Most people get it (I like to think, though I might be overly optimistic).  Fewer speak up when it happens.  Some surreptitiously uprate the “jokes”.

Here’s something recent from Meteor Blades, who gets it:

The use of the language of transgender bias…

…in your disgust for Coulter disrespects all transgender people.  Just as all sexist, heterosexist and transexist remarks disrespect people based on gender and sexual orientation.  Not a progressive stance.

It is all about respect…and the lack of it that some people have.

I didn’t know

just what was wrong with me

Till your kiss helped me name it

We are human beings and we deserve to be treated like it.  We are not “shemales” or “he/she’s”, but human beings with life goals similar to your own:  an interesting job, a comfortable place to live, the ability to go out in public without being arrested or murdered on sight.

So I worked on this essay yesterday…and when I was coming to this end, a funny strange thing happened (it was definitely not funny to some of us).

Keith Olbermann, who I had just recently exchanged some comments with about a joke he alluded to about involving transpeople, told me about the wonderful treatment he had received from the eye doctor, Renee Richards and how grateful he was…and how he understood and all.

Words, apparently.

Angered by something Ann Coulter said, Keith said these words:

If this man wants to live his life as a woman, who am I to object?

And the lives of transwomen instantly become no more than the punch line of a joke.

It immediately spawned this sort of thing:

ha! loved that KO suggested she was a dude (8+ / 0-)

Some people immediately jumped to Olbermann’s defense, claiming to know that he really had no bias against GLBT people.

Gwenner‘s got this one exactly right:

It doesn’t matter what his personal views are

He propagates the idea that it is bad or insulting for a woman to be called a transsexual. ¬†Whenever anyone calls Coulter a man that is exactly what they are doing even if they don’t realize it.

No, KO.  What you said was not OK.

You’ve given the green light to the disparaging comments and the debasing use of our identity as an insult.  And every time that happens, our chances of gaining an equal shake in this world grow more remote.

This certainly isn’t the kind of statement which will push ENDA through Congress.

I am sorely disappointed.


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    • Robyn on February 20, 2010 at 00:05

    You don’t know what it’s like

    …to trying to make this world a better place, yet still wonder if it really matters, if anyone really cares about us as people.

    In a world where all people consider themselves to be born experts on gender, and knows deep in their heart of hearts that there are only men and women and that these designations can never be changed, who cares about the minority of us who disagree?

    Who cares about the people who are living proof that gender is more than a chromosome?

    How does one really fight that?

  1. I agree.

    Keith definitely owes an apology.

    Hopefully tonight.

  2. Robyn, you are a treasure.  I have no idea how you manage to put up with this shit.  And, more important, how you manage to keep on keeping on.  I applaud you.

    Because Newark is my city of birth, I feel compelled to make a small contribution to those is defending Diane Taylor.  I will do that this evening. I wish I had more to give.  I hope others reading this will join me.  The Newark police have a long, long history of getting it wrong, they have no excuse, and they need to learn to start getting it right.  That’s something I can support. If I had genius grant (hint, hint), I could give more.

    I invite all of you to get out your checkbooks.  It’s worth it.

    • Robyn on February 20, 2010 at 01:21

    …available in Orange.

  3. … he threw a haymaker and this time hit the corner post.

    Gender is obviously important to the person and whomever they’re married to (or ought to be able to be married to).

    OTOH, I noted that in the Crate and Barrel Ultimate Wedding contest, a Lesbian couple that has entered says they want to have Mediterranean finger food at their reception.

    And for the guests at the reception, surely the quality of the food ought to be more important than the gender of the newlyweds.

  4. I knew immediately that KO screwed up royally with that comment.

    I told my wife Teri, that he was going to have to eat those vile words starting in about 5 mins.

    I hope he does apologize sincerely on his very next show.

    He should know better, & apology or not, he`s dropped down several notches in my own approval rating of him.

    I commend you on your courage to live on that edge, sharpened so much by bigots & ignorant people surrounding you.

    What happened to that young lady, Diana Taylor, is just so crude & cruel, it defies belief.

    Thanks to the ACLU, I would hope the “boys will be boys” are fired, for abusing their badge, & an upstanding young lady with no record. (as if that should matter)

  5. Long ago in a galaxy far away (or about 5 or 6 years ago non-blog time) I might have laughed at a transgendered Coulter joke.

    No longer.  I don’t claim to see it the same way you do, but I find it repellant and obnoxious on its face to mock people where it concerns their gender identity.

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