Anonymous hostile web commenting … and cyberbullyingTrans Progressive Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Commentary: Trans Progressive
In the Sept. 2 article, SignOn, U-T, moving to real-name comments, the Union-Tribune announced it was ending anonymous comments. They outlined why they were implementing their new, Sept. 12 onward policy:
“But the veil of anonymity also enabled people to publish some dreadful, hate-filled and heartless comments on our pages and those of every other site that went this route.
“… It is self-evident that people are less likely to publish such comments when they are publicly identified. Aside from content, there is the matter of tone. Anonymity also enables hostility.”
Anonymity certainly does enable hostility.
With hostility in mind, I literally regret writing about my recent genital surgery.
It’s not because I don’t think the information was interesting. It’s not because I don’t think my writings on the surgery didn’t succeed in educating the lesbian, gay and progressive communities I was targeting in order to educate them about the variety of trans life experiences. I used my own personal experience to tell a surgery story because many have never had an opportunity to get to know an out trans person in the brick-and-mortar world. Writing about my own life experiences is a tool I use so that you, the reader, have a chance to read about real-world trans experiences from a real-world trans woman.
Rather, the reasons I regret writing about my surgery are two-fold.
First, talking about surgery has nothing to do with the civil rights of LGBT people. There are those trans women who literally want to limit civil rights and ordinary equality for trans women who have not changed the shape of their genitalia with vaginoplasties. By talking about surgeries, some of us may have inadvertently affirmed the misconception that in order to validate gender and the civil rights related to gender identity, surgery and genitalia are the paramount consideration.
The second reason is that a number of trans women are so vested in the importance of vaginoplasties, so hostile in their belief that trans women who haven’t had vaginoplasties aren’t really women, that they cross the line into anonymous (or near anonymous) cyber-bulling.
For reference, Bill Belsey coined the term cyberbullying, and he defined it this way:
“Cyber-bullying involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm others.”
By that definition of cyberbullying, I have a handful of cyberbullies who now are incredibly focused on me and intent on doing damage to me in the brick-and-mortar world. One has been posting on the Web under the anonymous user identities of, “The Other Woman,” “A Former Friend” and “Not Your Friend.”
In 2010, when I was selected to be one of the two Champions of Pride, she was making the case that I wasn’t out of the closet as a trans woman because I don’t publicly reveal my former name. She sent me an email with this included in the text (expletive modified):
“You are a liar. You are not out of the closet Adam Sandeen or whatever the f*** your name is. Grow up for once and admit you are still in the closet. I rest knowing you will get what you and your kind deserve soon enough.”
After receiving that email, I contacted police and I contacted her internet provider. Although she has stopped emailing me threats, her cyberbullying – her cyberharassing – has continued. She’s written in the comment section of one blog:
“I have Sandeen’s home address and would give it to you.”
In another comment thread to another post on the Web, a comment that goes to the focus of her continued cyberbullying, she wrote:
“Note to Autumn. In case you didn’t know men have penises Women have vaginas.You are neither.”
And now she’s stating that she wants to reach out into the brick-and-mortar world and to impact my ability to change my gender marker on my birth certificate:
“There are some of us here who would like to make it as hard as possible for that penis packing person Sandeen to change the [sex] marker to female on Sandeen’s birth certificate, if we can’t succeed at that then we would like to make it as public as possible.”
“Not your friend” has an IP address that indicates she lives here in San Diego. She knows who I am, and apparently knows where I live, but at this point I don’t know for certain who she is.
And, “Not Your Friend” is just one of a handful of my anonymous cyberbullies. I have a few more who’ve expressed a desire to inflict emotional and financial damage on me in the brick-and-mortar world.
Anonymity certainly does frequently enable online hostility; it sometimes enables cyberbullying too. The views of commentators do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher or editorial staff of San Diego LGBT Weekly.
Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=15291