Content warning: This series of self-defense posts will necessarily rehearse some trans-antagonistic perspectives for the sake of developing trans-affirming responses.
A lot of trans-antagonistic arguments are not about the Bible at all. They are often about the many cultural assumptions that we bring to the conversation.
On a recent Facebook thread, trolls called me sick and sinful. They argued that I am lying to myself. They acted like they were talking from a Christian point-of-view (talking about heresy), but not once did they actually cite scripture or demonstrate any understanding of the ways of Jesus or the Love of God.
They seemed to rely on the idea that their unilateral proclamations would be sufficient to motivate my submission to their perspectives — or to otherwise condemn, hurt, or silence me (and others like me).
The more I testified about God, Jesus, and scripture, the more it became clear that their argument was basically just “You are not a (real) Christian, because (you are transgender and) I said so.” There wasn’t much substance beyond their confident declarations.
This is why I open OtherWise Christian with a conversation about authority and colonization. Often times, those of us who have been condemned, expelled, or abandoned have internalized those messages. We learn early on that various gatekeepers and opinion leaders, whether within our family or in other institutions (e.g. religious, medical, legal, etc), have authority over us. Getting defensive can become habitual.
While gatekeepers may have some authority over us in certain settings, it is important that we don’t give them (and their kind) more authority than they deserve.
Obviously, it stings to hear condemnation from internet trolls, but they are not speaking from any legitimate authority. They are just trolls parroting cultural assumptions without any depth of research or understanding. They cover for their lack of insight by speaking with great confidence (and often with a collective, gang effect).
Left to run its course, this argument will devolve into a petty “Yes, I am” “No, you aren’t” level of bickering, since it is based on little more than a gross generalization and a difference of opinion.
With that in mind, it can be useful to acknowledge what is happening. With these particular trolls, I started commenting on their apparent ignorance. Such acknowledgement does not have to become ad hominem attack.
- I notice that not one of you haters is talking about scripture. You sure don’t seem to know Jesus. And there is nothing about your slurs that demonstrates the Love of God. I can agree that we have very different religious perspectives!
- They are simply parroting cultural assumptions using religion (doesn’t seem to matter which one) as a weapon.
In another recent encounter, someone was arguing against a transgender reading of a particular text. They said, the text is “about <something else>. Period.” And called my approach “a bad interpretation of scripture.” Again, there was no substance to the argument beyond their vehement declarations. They ignored all of my efforts to invite a more specific critique. In that case, I queried:
- When you say “Period,” it sounds like you are saying, “I am right and you are wrong and I am not willing to discuss it anymore.” Is that what you mean?
- I get that you have a strong opinion about this text, but how does that make my opinion “bad”?
If someone holds a “My way or the highway. Period. End of Discussion” point of view, then there really isn’t anything further to discuss about the topic. The conversation becomes about how we are going to cope with their unilateral declarations.
Of course, we will have legitimate disagreements with others. That may be uncomfortable, but it can be helpful to acknowledge when that is the case. However, when we simply disagree, further discussion is often ill-advised and unproductive. Often we spend a lot of energy defending ourselves when we are actually talking right past each other. Sometimes, the best use of time and energy is to simply end the conversation.
Strategy: When you recognize that a conversation is (or has become) a meaningless argument, not an actual discussion, how do you decide how to proceed?
- Are they worth your time? In other words, is this a good use of your energy?
- Do they have actual authority over you? Why are you engaging with them in the first place?
- Does it help to rephrase their declarations as “I statements”? Can you make the fundamental difference of opinion more apparent without being defensive?
- Who is your audience? Are there others watching who may be influenced by how you respond? What might they need to hear from you?
- How is the conversation impacting you? Is it safe and healthy for you to continue?
- Can you find a way to shut down the argument and disengage?
Finally, it may be useful to wonder if there something else going on entirely. Sometimes people fall into a “because I said so” argument because, for some reason, they aren’t able to talk about what they are actually concerned about. It may be an adjacent issue, past history, or self-esteem. When that is the case, no amount of argumentation will get to the heart of the issue.
Join us on Wednesday night at 8pm Eastern for live OtherWise Self-Defense conversations.
Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on October 19, 2019.
Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have additions, corrections, or concerns.