An Open Letter To Some Guy On Twitter

Clara Barnhurst responds to the attention on social media and every Twitter bully ever.

Hello,

I’m not the transgender lady you laughed at the other day. I mostly know that because I don’t have a twitter account. I’m just her friend. The particular friend you laughed at I haven’t known long and we’ve never had any exchanges beyond Facebook. I can’t call her a close friend, or even more than an acquaintance. She, like me, has the propensity of sharing stuff about her journey on the Internet. You took a moment to belittle her and she shared the conversation with her Facebook friends. That’s how I know who you are.

She gave you a lot more time than I would have. She had a conversation with you. I’d have blocked you and moved on. In that conversation, you raised a few points that I think deserve a full response. I don’t expect you’ll ever read this and, if you did, you would probably dismiss it without giving it any real thought – but that’s what we do on the Internet. I can’t expect you to give me any more consideration than I would you. But here it goes. Maybe someone out there is listening.

You cited religious scripture as evidence that my friend’s gender identity was invalid which, by extension, invalidates mine too. My friend is a devout Christian. I am not. My god is very real to me, but a discussion of the nature of my god is beyond the scope of this letter. That’s the crux of it: we live in societies with traditions of freedoms of religion and expression. I am not bound by your god. I do not have to do more than tolerate your religious views, however distasteful I find them. But the moment you cross that line and insist my freedom of expression isn’t valid, I have a problem. Freedom of expression cannot come with freedom from criticism and you went ahead and criticised. That’s fair. It is your right. I’ll just go ahead and continue to critique your criticism. That’s my right.

My gender expression is a form of expression same as what I write or draw. It’s a protected trait under the First Amendment (though no case has set this precedent, the argument exists). On a superficial level, if Amon Bundy can successfully argue for his right to dress as a cowboy in court, citing it as an important part of his identity, I can express my identity as I see fit, too. Here in the UK, my freedom of expression is similarly protected under common law. Nobody can insist I present as a man any more than they can insist I remove my heptagram. These are protected traits, like it or not, and when it does go to the highest courts – and rest assured, it eventually will in America just as it has here – you will lose. History is not on your side.

You also made an interesting point, albeit by accident. You said that you can’t purchase womanhood and it’s misogynistic to suggest one can. Just setting aside your comment on misogyny – no man, least of all no cisgender man, is going to tell me what sexism is – I’m pretty sure the first bit is on point. You can’t purchase womanhood. If it was that easy, anyone would do it. Seems you can’t purchase manhood either ‘cause I obviously didn’t. Believe me, if I could have simply purchased manhood, I would have.

Womanhood – whatever that really is – is not a thing to be purchased. It’s a state of being. One simply is or is not. I dare say gender is that way regardless of where we are on the spectrum. And sometimes you’re just not a gender. I don’t comprehend manhood or non-binaryhood (no idea what term works for that). I don’t expect you to comprehend transhood or anything beyond your own manhood. That’s actually OK. I’m glad you don’t. If you did, you would be transgender of some description. Nobody wants to be transgender. Everyone does their best to not be transgender. One comes out as transgender because they’ve exhausted their options and finally feel they can’t do anything else to stay safe.

That’s true even for young people. I asked a good teenager friend of mine why she came out and her response was immediate, “Dysphoria and terror. I was afraid I might do something to myself.” This from a fourteen-year-old. Forgive my absolutism, but anyone who thinks that a preadolescent has to live in that kind of fear of themselves is beneath contempt.

So you can damn us on Twitter. That is your right, provided it doesn’t become harassment. We who remain visible are used to your kind of opposition. Trust me, we have far bigger things to worry about than what you can say to us over Twitter. You can believe in your god so long as you accept that I will believe in mine. You are free to criticise, so long as you understand that you might not be taken seriously.

I also realise after writing this that I’ve made several assumptions about your gender identity. If I am in error and you are not in fact a cisgender male, I am sorry. Please feel free to let us know how you prefer to be referred to and we’ll sort this letter out so it represents your identity properly.

Take care,

Some transgender chick on Facebook

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