Response to kbonn

First off, you should read this post at Sincerely, Natalie Reed: Disgusting. It’s an account of a typically random bit of hostile bigotry that trans people suffer from anonymous cowards who know they can get away with their vile behaviour.

Next, in the comments thread there was (as usual) an obtuse commenter called kbonn. His first comment appears as comment #38, and there is a long sub-thread derailment (on my computer, it goes on for over twenty screens deep; it is extremely tiresome). All but one of his comments appear under there; the exception is comment #67. I was going to post the following there, but a two thousand five hundred word comment is a bit rude. I posted a précis (only just over one screen deep!) with a hyperlink from there to here, where I’m leaving the bulk of my response.

Update 1: I’ve noted a few (very minor) issues with my comment below, which I’ve deliberately left plain-formatted in the default sans serif font in order to set it off distinctly from the normal look-and-feel of my blog posts and comments. I’m not going to fix them for the moment – if kbonn decides to respond here rather than on Natalie’s blog I reserve the right to make some corrections which will be indicated by use of the normal Goudy serif font or a different text colour.

Update 2: kbonn, the subject of this post, has been good enough to leave an opening reply to my long form response below, in the comments. If you were part of the discussion over at SNR, feel free to engage with him, but also bear in mind I have since added a new post laying down a few ground rules which you should respect.

Having read all of your comments in this thread, I’m going to start by going a bit off-track at first to tell you what they remind me of, and then return to deal with them.

Natalie has given us a long personal reflection in the form of relating an anecdote, involving a rude anonymous man who made her feel uncomfortable, and we only have her side of the story to go on – though it is hardly unbelievable, if you were to ask almost any other trans person here. I recall another woman last year who related a similar anecdote, but she offered hers without much attempt at speculative analysis as to why the man had done what he had done: she labeled it as sexualisation and described why she was made to feel uncomfortable.

That led to all sorts of people to attempt to minimise what the guy had done. A thousand comments asserted possible reasons that went against the woman’s narrative:
No, he wasn’t being rude. He wasn’t being sexist. He wasn’t acting in an entitled fashion. He wasn’t being predatory or creepy. He had a legitimate question to ask. He wasn’t sexualising her. His words can’t possibly be interpreted that way. He was probably shy, or naïve about the effect of his words, or he had social anxiety, or he had Aspergers. His choice of venue to ask his question was not coercive.

A different category of questioners decided to attack the woman, rather than defend the man:
Are we sure this person even exists? Could she have made up the whole story? Is there any proof to back up what she says? She’s probably lying. She’s a feminist so she’s probably exaggerating her account to make the guy look bad. She’s done things in the past which justify treating her this way. It couldn’t possibly have been as bad as she makes out. I’m a woman, and that sort of thing wouldn’t bother me. So we have to coddle every woman in the world now? Shit happens, she needs to grow up and get a thicker skin. She’s just making drama as usual, over nothing at all. She’s hysterical. Why are we even bothering with this? Zero bad.

The common thing linking these sorts of comments is DENIAL. The writers of those comments couldn’t accept the story related – and not a terribly unbelievable story either – on face value. They had to ask questions, they had to minimise the woman’s experience, they had to rewrite every aspect of the entire encounter to exonerate the man, and they derailed the discourse by taking up all the oxygen in the discussion. PZ’s recent new rules for Pharyngula calls this last technique being a motormouth: when it happens I’ve seen a 500 comment thread be dominated by a single poster commenting over 100 of the comments, which is no longer a polite discussion: it’s someone trying to shout down everyone one else by using a megaphone and blaring away.

Now, to your comments, noting en passant that there’s more of them in the thread than any other contributor to the discussion – including the blog owner! – which is partly excusable by having an adversarial point of view that has led to back and forth discussion. Even so, you do seem to be thread hogging.

Your first sally in the comments (#38), as Natalie Reed pointed out, was to ask questions that not only had been answered by her in the original post: they were even tangentially addressed and answered by Erista (aka Eris) at comment #20 and the commenters who amplified the ideas in her comment in the sub-thread directly below in response to it. Yes, it’s okay to offer a contrary opinion but you need to actually engage with the objections to it raised by Natalie and the others, and your comment doesn’t do that: instead it minimises what the guy did and blames Natalie for not having a thicker skin. It’s a version of the zero bad argument, except the number isn’t zero. Even if it’s close to zero, if you stack up enough of them cumulatively you get to a level of bad that even you might not be prepared to tolerate – the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ argument Erista raised which you blithely ignored.

Your next reply (38.1.1) basically is a nihilistic ‘shit happens, shit is always going to happen’ therefore there is no point trying to deal with it, but ignore it as though it didn’t happen. What a great solution. Except, it did happen, and it had an effect. And as Natalie points out this is not an isolated happening, it is a pervasive pattern of random hostility towards people like us have to deal with more or less continually. Imagine it this way. For you, perhaps, it’s like you have the equivalent of a Geiger counter that occasionally goes off at a random shitty encounter: does it go off once a month for you? Because if I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time mine will go off several times a minute.

Your 38.1.1.1.1 could have been summed up simply by stopping after your first question – the rest of it is really telling us things we already know. In common parlance, that’s telling Natalie and the rest of her readers to go suck eggs. Next time think of doing the tl;dr thing? And it’s also besides the point (as Natalie said).

Your 38.2.1 candidly says that although the questions you were asking had actually been answered by Natalie in the OP, “just because she has an answer to the questions i asked doesn’t mean I think they are good answers or even legitimate ones”. Nice. And then you go on to do one of the classic things I pointed out at the start, questioning the narrative: “(Quick question Natalie, did he spit on you or at the ground towards you?)” She’s already told you – read the OP – “We were passing on the sidewalk, and you presumably read me for trans. You sneered, spat at me in contempt” – my bold for emphasis as Natalie’s told you she was spat at. Does it really matter if the spittle reached her, or fell short of its target and fell to the sidewalk? Well obviously it does to you, because presumably if it hadn’t hit Natalie in the face or something, then it might perhaps have been less rude than if it had. If you don’t mind me saying, I’d call that level of hair-splitting and presumption a pretty fucked up attempt at minimising or exonerating unacceptably rude behaviour, and I really hope that was not your intention in asking it. And you then went on to point out that because the guy could have been ruder than he actually was (bullying Natalie by following her and continuing to abuse her) you are content to write him off in the exact manner I highlighted: “As I said before, this is more a lack of manners and tact.” Manners and tact? So, not spitting at people is tact?

In 38.2.1.1.1 you give us a useful piece of information that you are not transgender, and “I am not claiming to have equivalent experiences to yours.” Damn right. So why don’t you actually listen to the people who do have those experiences of being transgender, for fuck’s sake. You go on to say, “So for all the understanding you are claiming to want from others, please do not make snap judgments about me, who I am, and what I am capable of understanding.” On the basis of your failure to engage with the issues from your very post onwards, I have to say: you’re not proving to be very capable at understanding this topic. Try harder.

38.2.1.2.1 states your lack of understanding as to why Natalie wrote this thread. Simple, bigotry has to be exposed and recognised for what it is to be rebutted, and Natalie’s post analyses why it was not simply rudeness at work here, it was almost certainly* bigotry. (* Of course we can’t know that for certain, but it seems a good working theory with plenty of evidence from attitudes in the rest of society.) And your plaint that you are “not condoning at all what he did” sounds very insincere coming after the previous comments which more or less did attempt to partially excuse it.

38.2.1.3.1 sympathises with a queer woman and relates your anecdote that the “many gay and lesbian individuals” of your acquaintance “have never felt threatened in the way you have and certainly not in the constant manner you describe”. Perhaps we should ask where you live? Or perhaps we should consider another possibility, which is that your gay and lesbian friends don’t bother telling you about the occasions when they have been threatened because you’re perhaps not very good at listening to these sorts of anecdotes and offering appropriate responses?

38.2.1.4.1 is more theorising to get the guy off the hook. “It might have freaked him out and he reacted with a gut reaction.” Read more about the “gay panic” reaction (in this case it’s “trans panic”). “It is regrettable that he acted the way he did.” No. That’s really fucked up right there.

38.2.1.5.1 is offering an apology to Erista (aka Eris) who has ostensibly been angered by the things you’d said up to this point – and I really can’t blame her for such a reaction.

38.2.1.6.1 is you denying that you’ve been JAQing off in the thread (you should re-read your comment 38.2.1), denying that you’ve blamed Natalie for her part (you should re-read your comment 38), and attempt to employ the excuse that “I was merely making suggestions, attempting to have a discussion. In any case, I was trying to be helpful, not confrontational.”

38.2.1.7.1 is a response to a post by a trans woman who provided you with five equivalent anecdotes to Natalie’s. And then you gave the same bullshit response as 38.1.1, except with an attempt at a solution, unlike the earlier post. Again, it reads like an attempt to ask a person with way more experience in the topic at hand to suck eggs, because as Natalie immediately says, “do you really think this is some unique insight that hasn’t occurred to those of us dealing with this kind of thing?”

38.3.1 presents an interesting defence: you whine that because you are not transgender “I didn’t realize that meant my opinion is less valid.” On this topic, which is a transgender topic: your opinion is not less valid, but it IS far less RELEVANT because you have neither the life experiences nor the expertise that would better inform you on the subject. In other words, you are the amateur here, we are the experts. Assuming for a moment that you’re not an evolutionary biologist, would you go over to Pharyngula and dare to lecture to PZ Myers about your understanding of biology? So don’t come here and lecture to transgender people about transgender issues that they know inside and out, when you are not transgender yourself. How fucking difficult is that?

(I will concede that you do confess your relative ignorance in the second paragraph of the comment… followed by a final sentence which again is a case of telling someone who knows the subject intimately that there are lots of solutions. Well, d’err, herp a derp. Doesn’t mean these ‘solutions’ actually help all the issues: how could they?)

38.3.1.1.1 again asserts what you think is a productive response. Natalie disagrees. She’s the person who’s actually affected by things like this, so I think your disagreement, once stated, is pretty much the end of it. Unless you want to dictate how every other person prioritises the things they want to fix, and criticise them for having their priorities out of whack. (#firstworldproblems)

That’s almost the entire extent of your attempt to derail the thread with JAQing off, but you then added comment 67. You confess you’re a newbie to the blog. From an old hand here – I was on board SNR from Day 1, though of late I’ve been rather slack in commenting, entirely my fault – if you’re new to a place and unfamiliar with the culture, you will get a much better response by lurking for a while and listening to what people talk about before jumping in.

You complained that ‘I also refuse to accept that the color of my skin, my gender, my sexual orientation, or any other individual detail about me makes my opinion or experiences in this world less valid than anyone else’s.’ True. Except, none of those facts are actually relevant to the case at hand, which is the distinction I thoroughly took apart in my criticism of your 38.3.1 above. You have not been disrespected on the basis of your skin color, gender or sexual orientation. Your opinion is not viewed as less valid (you’re entitled to offer it, no problem), however it is viewed as far less relevant because you lack the particular experiences of the type that are germane to the discussion, and which are commonplace experiences for transgender people (like Natalie and others) and often not for cisgender people (like you).

When you don’t listen to the people with the relevant experience and speak dismissively from a demonstrated position of comparative ignorance, it is therefore both understandable and natural that there is a reaction of hostility towards you. If you think you have been mistreated in this thread, I really suggest you don’t frequent Pharyngula. By comparison with what your comments perhaps might deserve had you attempted to offer them at a far less friendly blog than this one, you’ve not been very badly treated at all when compared with the obvious offence that you’ve given to the trans* commenters here, and given very little in return by way of apology.

I am not desirous of you replying to my comment. On adversarial blogs it is common to have a back and forth dialogue, so that if X writes a 500 word criticism of Y’s points, then Y feels they need to rebutt X with 750 words. I’ve given you 2,000 words of minutely pointed criticism of your points. You could respond to every word I’ve said and every argument I’ve asserted. I think that would take another 5,000 words. Feel free to do it on my blog. But I’d really rather you didn’t. The basic reason for this is, nothing you have added here has helped the discourse. Commenters other than you were having a mature discussion at the graduate level. Your contributions demonstrated that you hadn’t even turned up to enough of the pre-Trans 101 lectures to be able to pass the entrance exam.

You are fucking up the discourse. Don’t do that. Shut up, listen, and learn.

10 thoughts on “Response to kbonn

    • I didn’t want to make a snap judgement, but he does seem to be obtuse.

      What I will say is, obtuse commenters who might as well have been cookie-cut from a mould exactly like kbonn have been fucking up threads on FTB for over a year now, and I’m heartily sick of reading their bone-headed ignorance almost every single day of the year.

      My précis comment at SNR hit the moderation filter for including the hyperlinks. I might ask Natalie if she has any objection to the post or whether she thinks my response is itself a continuation of the derail, and therefore fucking up the discourse.

      Updated to add that my comment is through and appearing on SNR. We’ll see what comes of it.

  1. That was a particularly frustrating post-hog, who really seemed to be trying to find any number of ways Natalie was wrong in her perceptions (hello gaslighting!) and to make excuses for the dude. Wonder why.

    • Having seen so many cookie-cutter trolls before, I predict two outcomes:

      1. kbonn is a rational poster who will come to the realisation that he fucked up, that he doubled down repeatedly with yet more fuck up, and so he needs to apologise, shut up, go away and do his research, so that if he needs to offer his opinion again it will at least be an informed opinion.

      2. The doubling down will continue like every other fucken troll we’ve seen do the same on FTB, more or less every day since Elevatorgate.

      Ho hum.

      By the way Happiestsadist, welcome to the blog if you haven’t visited before, and please feel free to have a look around and criticise any crap you don’t like. My regular commenters are far too nice with me!

  2. I thought about making a longer post, but honestly it doesn’t feel worth it with you. Some of the other responses to my post are far more respectful than you are. If you are willing to change your attitude and really honestly read my posts, then perhaps we can have a polite discussion.

    For some of the other comments here.
    I was certainly NOT making excuses for the guy, I never condoned what he did or suggested that it should be acceptable. The guy was an ass. That doesn’t mean that I think the way Natalie handled it/reflected on it was the most productive path.

    I would always rather attempt to help, even coming from a place of ignorance. Part of the process is to discuss things. Just because I don’t agree with everything 100% doesn’t mean I am incapable of understanding it or a troll, frankly it is rather arrogant to think that way in the first place.

    • Welcome to the blog, kbonn.

      If we’re going to have a discussion about tone and civility – rudeness, politeness, arrogance – can we do that as ‘you first, me second’? After all, your posts on SNR preceded my response.

      You’re the newbie on SNR. In your first comment you victim blamed Natalie, in your second comment you were gaslighting her – Google those terms if you need an explanation of why they’re problems. (I even detect a note of victim blaming in your comment here, that she could have done anything differently to avoid what happened to her.) That was pretty rude to her, and I haven’t seen an acknowledgement from you that that’s what you did – perhaps unintentionally, but that’s irrelevant to the rudeness – and I haven’t seen an apology either. Please offer one to her, and then I might consider an apology for the rude tone of my comment to you?

      I’m not a newbie on SNR, I read it (even if I don’t comment) every time Natalie has a new post. Your comments offended me to anger, and then irritation, probably for the same reason they offended Erista (aka Eris) – from the outset they were indistinguishable from those of every other Internet troll besetting the FTB website, especially when you continued doubling down. I don’t like reading comments by trolls on Natalie’s blog, and some contrition and back-pedalling from you would go a long way to reducing the hostility levels aimed at you. Respect has to be earned, and your comments barely did the minimum to indicate I think you might be posting in good faith. Maybe. The jury’s still out on that one.

      You complain of arrogance from the other posters, you didn’t even listen to the regular commenters trying to tell you that you weren’t being helpful. Are you going to actually admit to a greater level of arrogance, to whit, posting on a blog without a clue about the culture of the blog and its people, and being grossly uninformed about the social justice issues surrounding a group of marginalised people who you are not a member of, which you demonstrated that you have little understanding about?

      Ball’s in your court.

  3. Thanks for responding. I can fully admit that I wandered into a discussion before I should have on Natalie’s blog. That’s on me.

    However, you are engaging me directly here in discussion and use terms you think I might not know and then tell me to look up(I hadn’t heard the term gasslighting before). That is rude again. I took my time out here to say that I am willing and interested in discussing things with you, provided that it isn’t hostile.

    I was NOT blaming Natalie for what happened, though I can admit that questioning how she handled it was arrogant on my part. How exactly is “questioning her reaction” blaming her for what happened? By definition, her reaction would have to be AFTER it happened, therefore I am not blaming her for anything that happened before it happened. Shit, I am not blaming her for anything.

    I was NOT gaslighting her either. She was speculating as to the mental process from the asshole in question that lead to his reaction. Again, I was a bit naive jumping in here, but I wasn’t trying to get her to doubt her recollection. As to the spitting issue, I was questioning what she meant so that I understood it, not to try to question what really happened. To me, it wasn’t entirely clear.

    Lastly, I specifically thanked certain people who engaged me in what I felt was a more helpful manner, (ESP the link to Crommunist’s post about basically exactly what I did). I felt that people were being more hostile than they were due to the terminology being used and my lack of familiarity of it being used in that way. But I tried to back off and engage people after the first few initial responses. Did you actually go back and read that part?

    I have been considering writing Natalie, but I’ve been attempting to learn more about what I am talking about before doing so. I would still like to get into what I was attempting to say in the first place(which I did a terrible job of), I certainly owe her an apology, but that is between Natalie and myself, not me and you.

    I can fully admit to being ignorantly rude and arrogant, I am attempting to educate myself so it does not happen again. You seem to be intentionally rude, implying you can stop at any time. I would ask that you please do so, otherwise I see no reason to continue this conversation.

    • I’m glad to see you’re reflecting on your comments on Natalie’s blog. You mention my rudeness in not providing you with handy references to stuff (rather than you taking the time to familiarise yourself, a theme you brought up elsewhere); so this time I will provide you with a handy link, “If You Cared About These Matters You’d Be Willing To Educate Me” which may explain the exasperation people feel in these sorts of discussions. People’s patience runs thin, and mine certainly did. I saw the link hall-of-rage provided you to Crommunist’s blog, as well as the discussion you had there, where I saw Crommunist himself wrote you out a very well-considered post – I hope you took some of that to heart.

      As for your latest comment on Natalie’s thread, yes I have read it, and noticed it wasn’t at all apologetic to Natalie for your derailing, which even if it was entirely well-intentioned, still caused hurt. If you have come around to the view that you owe her an apology for what you said in public, then I also think it’s beholden on you to be seen making the apology in the same venue – in public. Besides, as you would perhaps have noticed from the latest thread, she’s been having an utterly shitty time thanks to someone she’s never even met, so I’m sure she’d appreciate the gesture; Natalie’s a friend, in case you hadn’t noticed, which is why I’ve suggested to you – who I otherwise don’t know from Adam – that you do the right thing by her.

      I think you may be under the impression that your comments in Natalie’s thread only suggest one possible interpretation, according to your own knowledge of what you intended to say. Unfortunately “Intent Isn’t Magic” (warning, severe sarcasm on that link) and you actually did make some extremely problematic suggestions in your comments. One of these which I was especially short in responding to was the one which read, quote, “It might have freaked him out and he reacted with a gut reaction.”

      Now, if you weren’t aware that this sort of justification is, in extreme cases, used as a legal defense against assault or murder, especially when committed against gay or trans people (Wikipedia, Salon), then you perhaps didn’t intend to write something that legitimises that behaviour by way of attempted explanation, which is never acceptable – if adults are responsible for their actions in society, then courts shouldn’t accept this as a legitimate defense (but sometimes they do). Funnily enough, a fair amount of LGBT people have heard of this line of argument before, and you can perhaps guess what level of respect it is treated with.

      So, there’s a problem related to the clear meaning of that sentence, let alone the soft-pedalling of your next sentence, “It is regrettable that he acted the way he did.”. In terms of gaslighting Natalie, the use of ‘regrettable’ gives a very different connotation to ‘unacceptable’; something that is regrettable might be explicable by circumstances, whereas something that is unacceptable is beyond the bounds of permissible social behaviour. Together those two sentences, to the knowledgeable reader, admit of a different interpretation to what you probably meant to say, which is: Natalie got off lightly, she should be grateful she wasn’t assaulted or murdered! If you knew that trans women are the most likely demographic within the LGBT community to be on the receiving end of threats, violence, criminal assault, and murder, then you might have been aware of that potential pothole, and avoided stepping in it. There are other examples of problematic readings that I could draw out similarly, but I doubt it’s really that productive to pick over the carcass of a deceased comments thread. I am still inclined to think it would be good for you to repudiate the unintended offense you gave with an apology on Natalie’s blog, and if you want to pick things up again here, then I’m not going anywhere.

      Edited to add: one other thing about the accusation of victim blaming I made in relation to your first comment here, since you flagged it in response: what else are we supposed to imagine is the meaning of, quote, “That doesn’t mean that I think the way Natalie handled it/reflected on it was the most productive path.” If you think she could have been doing something different to avoid the problem in the first place, or that she could have acted differently on the spur of the moment to minimise the hurtful nature of the encounter, or that you are implying that Natalie’s own agency in choosing how best to react to an example of hurtful behaviour which is entirely typical of harmful bigotry that underlies numerous interactions that transgender people experience at the hands of society, that by educating and raising awareness about such misanthropic, dehumanising behaviour isn’t helpful – then I’m sorry, but any of those implications look very much like victim blaming to me.

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