Note from Savannah (leftytgirl): the following is Lexi Tronic’s heartfelt response to the recent debate around Xtra! editor Danny Glenwright’s cissexist decision to post her (pre-transition) birth name on his facebook profile, the subsequent decision by several trans activists to boycott Xtra!, and Glenwright’s statements on the situation. I have personally provided (minimal) editing of the statement for grammar, and clarity on a few points.
Note that we have described this action on Glenwright’s part as transphobic in the past, but we should more precisely describe this as an example of cissexism (i.e. an act of a cis person to invalidate or belittle a trans person’s identity).
Even if in previous articles I have consented to having my birth name printed (which I have not explicitly done), I still have a right to request that it not be done in 2011. In 2009 I was interviewed for an article with Xtra when they published my birth name. While I did not have a major problem with that 2009 article, I did feel uncomfortable with my birth name being used. But I was promoting a new film project and the writer was a friend of a friend and I didn’t want to be contentious. The issue is not that people know my birth name; they can find this by looking at my past film work that features my old name. But I don’t want to be referred to by my old name at all nor do I want to encourage it. Especially among people I grew up with who may still not understand my transition.
I’ve had many incidents in which I’ve gone to a public place in Winnipeg and someone has addressed me by my birthname. It gives me a sinking feeling. For that reason, I found Danny using my name for “awareness” to “alert” old schoolmates problematic and upsetting. But I wasn’t outraged, I allow room for error, so I personally messaged him privately through facebook and asked him kindly to remove my former name from his site and included a link to an article that I like for these purposes, “How to Respect a Trans Person”.
Danny responded back to me that it was his personal facebook page and he was using my name to “spark dialogue” and thus he was not going to remove it. I shared with him that I found my former first name being printed on his page to be hurtful, and I pleaded with him to remove my name. After that second message Danny blocked me from contacting him on facebook. I even tried to call him at Xtra but he would not take my calls. I was quite distressed about my former first name (FFN) appearing on his FB page, and baffled by his lack of understanding about why I didn’t want my FFN up there, even after I sent him the link for “How to Respect A Transperson.“ I was even more distressed when I started getting facebook messages from former Winnipeg acquaintances saying “Hey (FFN), I read your article, are you coming home for Xmas?”
At that point I forwarded the facebook message exchange between Danny and I to some people on my facebook whom I thought might have some perspective on how to deal with the situation. I had no idea what to do myself since I already asked him, and then pleaded with him politely to remove my FFN and he refused and then he even blocked me on Facebook.
The people to whom I went for guidance were outraged and together they decided to boycott Xtra [meaning they would no longer comment for Xtra stories --Savannah]. They felt that it was an abuse of power on behalf of the editor and disrespectful to me.
So after the story spread like wildfire, and many people came out on media to support me, Danny decided that he would now talk to me. He phoned me and I shared with him the problems I have with him using my name; I did not want people to see it anywhere, especially former school mates in Winnipeg, who have previously called me by my former name. It has been a real problem for me and I find it very hurtful.
He apologized for it and said that that was not his intention, rather that he was using my birth name to alert old friends to my “success” story and to bring awareness of my former self. He apologized and assured me he would not continue publicizing my FFN.
To elaborate, after Danny called me and apologized, which I open-heartedly and gratefully accepted, he shared that he remembered me as a very negative person in his life. We were in the same elementary school together. He stated that I bullied him and caused him great distress at this time. I listened to what he had to say, I didn’t defend myself and never denied that I had called him hames, though I don’t remember actually doing so. But I did not deny it because I did not want to invalidate his disclosure.
I was also bullied in school and I was a very fucked up kid. I was 8 years old. I grew up being sexually abused, I lived in group homes, If I did bully anyone in grade four, I would not be surprised given my circumstances. So I apologized to Danny and said that I was sorry if he felt that I had bullied him and that it was completely wrong of me and acknowledged that it must have been very hurtful. I explained to him that I was not the same person that I was 24 years ago, that I lead my life as a person out there trying to make a difference and help people. He shared his own hopes and goals around Xtra and trans people, and I hung up feeling really good and really positive. I let my friends know that he whole-heartedly apologized and that we had worked it out and there was no further need to boycott Xtra.
So I was quite shocked when I woke up to find out that a friend had sent me a screen shot of Danny’s FB page from that afternoon and he had not yet removed the post containing my FFN. I promptly called him and I again pleaded with him to take my name down. He said that he was very busy but he would do it. And then later on that afternoon Danny’s “Response to a strange boycott” was released.
I was pretty mortified by Danny’s response. I really thought we had worked it out. I am not trying to get into a pissing contest with Danny about who is the bigger victim in this situation, himself for being bullied in grade 4 by me, and/or 24 years later being accused of transphobia [cissexism, to be more precise --Savannah] by well-networked and vocal supporters of myself on facebook. But I do feel that as a trans woman and a sex worker with a grade 9 education there is a bit of a power imbalance between myself and an editor of the largest gay publication in Canada.
I will also point out that Danny is a cisgender white male who appears able-bodied. I understand by the tone of his response (he opens with the line: “when I heard the name…a lump formed in my throat”) that he feels defensive and wronged and presumably victimized by me, but I don’t really have the institutional power to oppress Danny. I don’t have the power of the law, the school system, the police; I am marginalized, despite having powerful and vocal allies.
Further, I feel that Danny reacted so strongly because I tried to stand up for myself, and people have supported me, and I feel I have been subject to oppression a second time by Xtra with Danny’s response to the boycott supported by myself, my friends and allies.
That is a lot of background. I have been asked from Xtra for a response and it has taken me a few days because I don’t want to just be reactive.
To say that I have no right to protest someone’s use of my FFN on their personal facebook page because Xtra published it two years ago, when it causes me distress and furthermore has been documented that it causes many trans people distress, is somewhat akin to saying that a rape victim is not a victim of rape because she consented to sex two years ago. Do you know what I mean, jelly bean?