My Cancellation

Talkin' About My C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C...

I miss my dead friend.

—Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues

An old friend got back in touch a few months ago to tell me we could no longer be friends. We had only been in touch twice since the pandemic began, the latter of which was limited to a simple "happy birthday" I texted on the appropriate occasion, and the emoji with which she replied. But suddenly, it seemed, she wanted to communicate—in order to make it clear we couldn't be friends any more. This friend, whom I will call W.,1 wasn't content to simply ghost me (as she very nearly already had); she wanted to tell me off. And then cease to be friends with me.

Yet W. and I had been extremely close friends for a number of years.  Our kids (close to the same age) were friends too—we met as parents—and we often got together while they played. Other times, we would get together just the two of us, over coffee or lunch, for somewhat more intimate (and less interrupted) conversations.  I supported her through an emotionally rough divorce (and her subsequent period of being single), on occasion dropping everything for a spur-of-the-moment get-together when some emotional weight pressed upon her suddenly. When she had to see a medical specialist, I drove her to a doctor's appointment in a city an hour away. She referred to me, and I to her—in emails, and in texts, which were her preferred form of communication—as "friend", as though it were a proper name or a nickname ("hello, friend", "I miss you, friend"—that sort of thing).  In short, we were close.

But a few years ago W. started pulling back. The timing was such that the cause was ambiguous. It wasn't our kids; although they were different genders and attended different schools, they always played happily together until my friend stopped helping me arrange things. But it might have been that she had at long last started a new romantic relationship, and did not need as much support from a platonic friend.  Or she might genuinely have just been busy, with, in the last year, a helping of pandemic overwhelm larded on top of that. Or it might have been a political disagreement we had.

On politics, we were both firmly on what I would refer to as the Warren/Sanders left.  We had different areas that tended to engage our attention—I was particularly focused on climate change and political maneuverings; W. tended to engage more about intersectionality and social justice—but neither of us disagreed with the others stance on their issues; we just had different interests we focused on. This is not to say our views were identical; she, for instance, was slightly to the right of me on Israel/Palestine issues (despite my being Jewish and she not, which would stereotypically suggest the reverse). But what disagreements we had we would talk about in the ordinary way friends do: exploring, thinking, considering, reconsidering.  Sometimes coming to agreement, sometimes not.

Except about one issue.

And since you're reading this here, you know what the issue was.

I need to stress that at the time my friend got back in touch in order to break off our friendship, I had never written publicly about this issue.2  I occasionally—very occasionally, and even then less & less over time—liked or retweeted a tweet about it.  One time in particular was when I retweeted something by Andrea Long Chu—hardly an uncontroversial figure in trans circles, but still a trans woman writing (in my opinion, bravely and thoughtfully and well) about trans issues and the reality of her experience as she understands it.  My friend saw the retweet, and asked me about it.  I explained that I was a Chu fan, and liked all her writing—this was before I realized quite how polarizing this issue was, how even the slightest deviations from the party lines (such as those that Ms. Chu3 commits) can condemn one in all-too-many eyes.  My friend was calmed.  Temporarily.

But I didn't talk about these things publicly.  Even among friends, I had only discussed the issue at length with two (and my wife), of whom W. was one, but the second one.

The first friend with whom I talked about this—I’ll call her M.—pushed back, hard, and seemed to be upset that I was uncertain about my position on all these issues.  But while our friendship might have cooled slightly— I stopped working where she did soon after, so while I saw less of her, it's hard to disentangle the causes—it certainly didn't stop, and we definitely got together after that, and chatted in the old way, about other things.  Still, it was a negative enough reaction that I rather thought that I wouldn't talk about it again, either with her or with anyone else: I didn't want to risk this friend's friendship, nor any others.  So I just dropped it, and M., unlike (as we shall see) W., let me.

This was the context in which the issue came up with W., with whom I was closer than I ever was with M. It came up once or twice, and each time I said to W. that I didn't want to talk about it: my views were complex (part of which included, of course, the fact that I was myself autogynephilic, a fact I had not, at that point, told anyone, not even my wife, nor anyone through an anonymous online vehicle), and anyway I didn't want to risk damaging our friendship. And fundamentally I didn't care enough.  It wasn't the focus of my writing or thinking or activism, and while it was something I was interested in—I never let her know how interested, in either sense of that phrase—I felt no need to push that interest upon anyone else. It wasn’t worth risking losing a dear friend.

W. assured me: that could never happen with us: my other friendship may have been harmed by this—but ours couldn't be. We were too close. Whatever it was, I could say anything.

And we had talked about so many personal things. We had talked about our marriages, our kids, our problems, our lives—as well as about politics and books and many other things, too. At one point she had mentioned throwing out her porn collection when her kid was born, which meant that I, for the first time in my adult life admitted (to anyone besides my wife) that yeah, I looked at porn.  I had, and have, an enormous amount of guilt, not about looking at porn per se, but about the very fact of being a male who desires (more on this in future essays). It is incredibly fraught for me. But when I began to tell her, a little, about how I felt that my desire made me evil, she helped reassure me, and made it sort of a project to convince me that merely being a desiring male did not make me an evil person. In short, in various realms I had told her things about myself, opened up in (specific) ways I hadn't with any other friend. So maybe....

So we talked about it. And since it is a tricky issue, and is one I disagree (maybe; a little; sometimes) with my ideological cohorts about, I was, briefly, happy to be able to begin to explore it intellectually in what I had been assured was a safe space. Why did I doubt? Was I missing something that my side all saw, or was this an issue that my side, our side, was perhaps slightly off-kilter on? So we spoke, and disagreed, and went back and forth—and parted, I thought, on good terms.

But it was then a while before we got together again—longer than had, over the past years, become our custom—and when we finally did get back together, W. admitted, as our kids raced off to play together, that the delay was in part because that conversation upset her. "Would it help," I asked, "if I told you that I support trans rights to housing and employment and to use the bathrooms they are comfortable with and to be free from violence and all that?"

She smiled and said, "Yeah, actually, it would help a lot!"

I should have seen as a warning sign that she was surprised by that declaration of beliefs.  I had said nothing, nothing, that could indicate the contrary— unless one took any expression of doubt or dissent as a revelation that one might be on the other side, within a framework in which there are only two starkly opposed sides. So that she thought I might not have supported those things was a red flag, and if I had seen it I might have done things (although I don’t know what) differently. It also escaped my notice that while I had reassured her, she had not (also) reassured me.

Even so, I still didn't want to continue the conversation.  But she did, and so, after some reluctance, I agreed.  So we spoke about it again, at some length.

Both of those conversations were had on (lengthy) playdates with our kids—and thus were interrupted whenever they came back from whatever game they were playing to say they were hungry or tired or bored. We fell silent, not only because it was a serious adult conversation, and thus one that is boring to kids, nor just because it is a sensitive issue, but because my thoughts on it are complex enough that I wouldn't want to have kids exposed to fragments of it.  I'd answer my kid if he asked, but only if he was willing to talk about it seriously, and at length. I don’t want bits overheard and misunderstood.

So neither of those first two talks occurred in what I would call good environments for delicate, serious conversations. Particularly since I knew, if I were going to talk about this really seriously—and despite the warning signs, I still thought that we would manage to talk about this, as we talked about so many things—that I would eventually have to talk to her about the nature of my own desires, and my own feelings about gender.  When I kept saying that there was more to this, that it was complex for me, that is what I meant, although she couldn't know that. In part because she hadn’t let me get far enough into the issue to raise it.

And then, the next time we got together, after an even-longer-than-usual interval, it was just us.  And my friend, once again, raised the topic.  She even said that she hadn't called in a while because she was disturbed about what I thought on it.  So she wanted to talk about it.

"I'm don't think we should talk about it," I said (roughly, paraphrasing from memory).  "I care much more about our friendship than I do about this issue.  I don't talk about it with most people.  I just think about it because it's a big issue in politics, and I think about most of those.  But it's not that important to me.  So can we just not discuss it?"

But she insisted; so we did. We talked about very basic things—was biological sex a real thing, for instance—not about detailed social policy, let alone my own feelings. (Her hostility to complexity in this realm made me unable to get near that, certainly in a way that I felt safe opening up.) But I raised some doubts about the undiluted trans activist view of things; she rebutted. She was clearly upset by what I was saying, and I repeatedly tried to end the conversation; eventually, I forced the ending.

That third conversation may have been (my memory is uncertain) the last time I saw her.

I should stress again: in none of those conversations was I able to really go into depth about what I thought. The issues are too complex; my feelings too muddied and uncertain, requiring towers of caveats and zig-zags that I didn't have time to build; and her reaction every time I raised a single thread of an issue was to insist on debating that, rather than the whole. In my mind we had just begun to embark (at least the first two times) on what would be (if we continued it) a long conversational project, one which would have taken months or more to go through, and which would inevitably have intermingled with our other conversations and our friendship in other ways.  We had, in other words, only had the beginnings, explored the edges, of what I would consider true conversation. And from her reaction to that, I would have let the matter drop, so we could remain friends. But she insisted. Until she stopped getting together with me altogether.

For a while, we continued to have text conversations from time to time; when we did, she was nice, if a little distant.  We caught up on each other’s lives. But she didn't accept my suggestions about getting together—either just us, or with our kids—making vague excuses about being busy. But there were still a few conversations, until those dwindled to birthday salutations and emojis.

Until, one evening this spring, she texted me out of the blue, months after our last communication (those birthday wishes), and perhaps two years after she started pulling back emotionally, and long after I had decided, mournfully, that whatever the cause, the friendship had died.  Here's what she wrote:

Hi Yorick, I am sorry to say I have some hard things to share with you about our friendship. I have wrestled with this for a couple of years, and I now feel like I have found the words. I wondered if you would prefer to hear my thoughts by email or by phone. It is also fair to say that you don't want to hear what I have to say and our friendship can end here. With appreciation for all we have shared, W.4

Ten minutes later, after confirming it was a good time, I phoned.  She said, "How are you?", but I felt it would be genuinely weird to try to answer that, so instead I simply said, "You had something you wanted to say to me?"  So she did.

She acknowledged how close we had been, and how I had helped her through her divorce. But, she said, she had pulled back. And she didn't want me to think that it was just because she had gotten a new partner, or for any of the other reasons that one might think. She wanted it to be perfectly, absolutely clear that that she was ending our friendship because of my beliefs.

What beliefs, I asked.

She said that I "didn't believe that everyone had full human rights", or perhaps she said “deserved” full human rights—which would actually be a slander if applied most avowedly gender critical feminists I have read, let alone for me, who simply seeks to balance the rights of multiple claimants and to construct an understanding of the fundamental issues which feels to me right.  Nevertheless I did not interrupt.

She went on to say that if she met a new person with my views, she wouldn't have befriended them, but that she had been making an exception for me.  But this, she knew, was wrong. I needed to be shunned—as a moral issue, but also as a safety issue.  I was not safe to have around her child or her neighbors. What if I said something about this issue and her daughter overheard? (This, the issue that I tried desperately not to speak of, even to her; that I fell silent upon when our kids approached; that I generally don't speak of, at all.)

But mostly the issue was presented as moral: it would be immoral of her to associate with me. It felt religious: I was tref, polluting, taboo, and needed to be cast away. "If thy eye offend thee, strike it out!" was the tone. It could be nothing I did, since I did nothing and had done nothing (not even spoke about it, unless pressed); it was simply a matter of my beliefs.—My heresy.

The weirdest part, I think, was that it was not a call to repentance.  That would have made some sort of sense: to say, we used to be friends, but I can't be friends with you any more unless you repent your wicked ways.  Then I would have understood the purpose of the phone call: it would have been (from her point of view) my last chance at redemption.

But that wasn't what she was doing.  Only about halfway into the conversation did she even get around to asking if I had changed my views since we last spoke. Mostly, she wanted to make it perfectly clear why we were not longer friends.

When she finished, I asked if she wanted to hear what I had to say, or if she just wanted to hang up.  She said she wanted to hear it.

So then I spoke.

I spoke first about how betrayed I felt—how I had desperately wanted not to risk the friendship by talking about this, about how she had assured me that we were too close to part over this and that speaking with her was a safe space.  I tried secondly, and perhaps most urgently, to suggest that she doesn't understand what I really think; that the views she described in her opening monologue were flatly not ones I held; that to describe me as she did was frank slander; that the monster she saw was in her mind, not reality. That she saying to me "depart ye cursed into eternal fire" without even finding out what I really thought.

"Well, what do you think?" she replied.

But I replied that I refused to discuss an issue that was complex, about which my feelings were muddled, under these circumstances. That I would not stand ideological trial to find out if I were worthy of her friendship. That she, as she was now, didn't get to know that. I would have, at one time, been willing to explore these issues with her—if doing so didn't cause me to risk what she assured me I could not lose, but which I ultimately lost long before any real exploration could happen: our friendship. But now, in these circumstances? No. I would not explain myself. She asked me a few questions, pressing me a bit; I mostly refused to answer. Taking the fifth is really the only reasonable response to "are you now, or have you ever been, a communist?"

The final thing I tried to communicate was that the only one of us who was hurting any actual person was her.  She was hurting mehad hurt me, badly enough that the friendship was probably dead no matter what happened. That I did not act on these issues in any way contrary to how she would have had me act. I never misgender anyone; I have trans friends and relatives I love. I never discussed the issue. I was doing nothing that could cause harm.  Whereas she was causing harm, emotional harm, to a real live person. To me. If someone was being treated as less than fully human, it was her friend, not any purely-hypothetical victims of my wrongthink.

She had, basically, two responses to this point.  The first was that what was going on was really my doing, at least partly.  Here, I think, she was copying, not the words, but the structure of thought very familiar in left-wing online spaces: that harm done by criticizing a wrong-doer is not harm done by the critic. If X hadn't done Y, or would stop doing Z, there would be no criticism. And, of course, in many cases this is perfectly true: if the police stopped killing people, then criticism of them (at least on that issue) would stop; if sexual harrassers didn’t harass, they wouldn’t be canceled. But the difference here, of course, was that all I was really doing was believing — and that I couldn't stop just by willing it; I needed to be convinced. Presumably on some level she knew this, which is why this wasn’t a call to repentance: I had no actions to repent. Just heresy.

In the actual conversation, I didn't get much beyond the "I'm not doing anything; you're the only one hurting someone" point.  This led to her second response: you're accusing me of something just like I'm accusing you of something. In other words, we were equivalent.

I pointed out the obvious, glaring asymmetry here: she was accusing me of immoral beliefs, despite my protestations that I didn't believe what she thought I did; whereas all I was saying she was doing was what she was doing, explicitly, right then.  She was wrong about what I thought, and had to admit at least to uncertainty (and no, I wouldn’t explain—not under these circumstances). Whereas there was no uncertainty about what she was doing. "You are doing it right now, as we speak," I said. "There's no doubt about that."

It was around this point that she hung up on me. I have no reason to think I'll ever hear from or see her again.

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This story puts questions over cancel culture in a different light.  The most frequent response to the issue of cancel culture from the left side of the political spectrum is alternate between two positions: the denial that it exists, and the denial that it is of any significance as there are only a handful of cases of excess. Of course, the incident I have described hits pretty much every vector upon which leftists minimize or deny incidents of cancel culture. I was not harmed in any material way — I was not fired, for instance. My feelings were hurt; I lost a dear friend. That is all. (What a culture we live in, which sneers at feelings and friendships as though those were nothing at all!) Unless my former friend is going around slandering me to mutual friends, no one even knew about this until I published this.

But I think that when people worry about cancel culture, incidents of this sort are at least as common a fear as actually losing employment. People fear social shunning. Most people care about their friends; to lose them hurts. (We often hear the sneer: "so and so will be fine", by which they always mean, "has enough money", as though poverty were the only harm a person can suffer.)

Further, the claim, so common on the left, that you are only shunned if you are actually a Nazi or do something horrific is falsified by my story. All I did was doubt—not even believe anything concretely, beyond "sex is real and different from gender identity (while of course the latter is important and needs to be protected)" and "the principle that we should call people what they want to be called should apply to gender critical feminists (don't call them TERFs) just as much as to trans women (don't deadname or misgender them)." But canceling is not about preventing harm; it is about preventing thought.

Of course, most people would not call this canceling: as I said, I have not lost a job or anything. But that's the point. People see cancel culture, and they feel it as an overarching threat. Censorship is always more effective in what it gets people not to say on their own than in the actual censoring. How many people shut themselves up on this topic to avoid precisely what I went through—the losing of good friends? I myself did this—I didn't speak about this at all, recall, save with one other friend and W., and certainly never wrote about it—and even that didn't protect me!

Let me try to explain, briefly, why this matters.

Start with the fact I already mentioned: that this was not a call to repentance; that there was nothing in particular my friend was asking me to do—save, perhaps, announce that I had changed my mind. There was nothing else to ask me to do! At the time, I wasn’t doing anything about trans issues—I misgendered or otherwise ill-treated no one; I did not express my views; I signed no petitions and went to no marches. On other grounds I was voting only for left-wing candidates, all of whom were, in the natural course of things, pro trans rights. And I was happy—eager—to drop the issue with her and never talk about it again. It was not a call to repentance because there was nothing for me to cease doing. Nor was there anything for her to fear: if we had stayed friends, she would never (had we agreed, as I wished, to set the issue aside) have noticed my disagreement with her again.5

But she knew all that, and it wasn’t good enough.  What she wanted was not to be friends with anyone who thought such things (although she did not really understand what I thought, not at all).  The (implicit) opportunity she gave me to change were not behave differently or I shall unfriend you, for there was no behavior to change; the demand was think differently or I shall unfriend you.

I wonder if she ever stopped and considered how impossible a demand that is.

It is easy, after all, to say that one believes that trans women are women, full stop, no arguments or differences.6  It is almost as easy to act as if one believes that. But if you do not, in fact, believe it, can you really make yourself believe something different at will?

To change beliefs, you need persuasion. You need reasons. Anything else is either to pretend to change belief, or perhaps try and force yourself to accept a meta-argument ("other people know better, and believe this, therefore I should outsource my beliefs to them"—good reasoning, I think, on technical issues about which we don't have expertise, but not persuasive about moral or political ones). But to actually stop believing it I needed to be convinced.

And to be convinced, I would need to think it through—and thought requires freedom to genuinely consider all sides of an issue.  Otherwise it's not thinking; it's lawyering.  Starting with certainty gets you nowhere.

At one point in our final conversation, my friend had, indeed, said she’d insisted we speak about it because thought she could convince me, and that was also why she said that it was safe for us to talk about it. Which is a particular naiveté common on the left: it assumes that someone who disagrees with you must be making a simple and obvious mistake. I had read at least as much as she had on this issue, and thought about it at least as much as she; why was she so confident she could convince me? And not only convince me, but convince me quickly, not through delving with me into a long and complex ongoing conversation about these issues (the one that I had briefly fooled myself into thinking we might have), but in a quick one-two punch.

She thought she could convince me because she thought there was no issue here, no real matter about which reasonable minds might disagree. It is a level of certainty that the left often has, and often to its detriment: it not only keeps the left from listening, but it keeps the left from persuading, since we will not allow people the mental space to think things through.

And yet, and yet, and yet. Be honest, Yorick. Do you not feel this way about issues dear to your heart? Take the issue you feel most fervently about, climate change. Do you not feel this way about that?

Well, sort of; but not really. It differs in two basic ways.

First, there is a fundamental difference between the two issues: the truth of anthropogenic climate change is a scientific question, while how to deal with trans issues is a moral (and political and social and cultural) question. Scientific questions are genuinely open to (understood and evaluated by) experts within the field. And scientific questions are based upon empirical evidence: we go look at the world, and make arguments based on that.7 Moral (and political and social and cultural) issues, in contrast, are about values: they are up to all of us, and while facts are relevant to our discussions, they are not determinative in any simple way. Which is to say, it is possible to be empirically wrong about climate change in ways it is not about trans issues.

(Of course, these issues intersect: that climate change is occurring is a scientific issue, but how deal with it is a political (etc) one; on the latter there is room for debate, as long as one sticks within the bounds of science’s empirical findings. Similarly, one can have whatever views one wishes of trans issues, but one ought to bear in mind relevant facts (about, e.g., what would happen to trans women if they are refused entrance to women’s bathrooms), and not deny them.)

So that is one key difference. But even more important is the second: I would not deny a friendship over this.

I know this is true because I did find out that a (different) dear friend of mine was a climate change denier. Oh, I knew he was in general on the right. But since he was a doctor (and had done some grad school in science), I didn’t think he would go that far. And then I found out. And truth be told, when I did, it squicked me out. It seemed to say something about his personality, his being, that made me rethink who he was as a person.

And I think I had better cause for upset with him than W. did with me. He is taking action—at the very least, voting for candidates who implement policies which will do enormous harm to the planet, kill many people, and may possibly end up destroying civilization and even causing the extinction of the human race. And given the nature of the issues, climate change is simply a more dire problem than trans issues, whatever one thinks about the latter.8

But you know what? I got over it.  We had one disturbing conversation, I grumped and fretted a bit, and then the next time we got together we talked about... all the other things we talk about. And while I would be lying if I said that it did not bother me at all, I do not let that bother enter my actions. Because he was my friend. Because friendship is a value, an it matters just as much as any other value matters. Oh, sure, I also knew that if I defriended him it wouldn’t do any good: it wouldn’t convince him, nor anyone. But I don’t think that I would have—and I certainly don’t think I should have—defriended him over this even if I thought that doing so might change his mind. To think otherwise is a shallow and nasty view of friendship; it is to reduce a person to nothing but a series of positions. It is anti-human, in the deepest sense.9

It’s more than that. People need friends; people need conversation to think. To refuse to be friends with people for whom you disagree is to block the way of inquiry.

But being cruel is, I think, an even worse thing than that.10

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Let me end with a word on my epigraph.

It’s from an album by the punk group Against Me!, whose lead singer and chief songwriter, Laura Jane Grace, came out as trans mid-career. In fact, it’s the album where she began to (publicly) work through her pain about being trans. It’s a great album; I like it a lot.

Grace, of course, was talking in the song about a dead friend in the literal sense, one who has gone to the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns. But the pun is there: in trans culture, one speaks of dead names, that is, names that no longer apply to oneself. It is in that sense that W. is my dead friend.11 (I trust that she is not dead in any other sense, although I am not sure I would find out if, heaven forfend, she died.)

This is true, I think, in a somewhat deeper way than “dead” simply being a substitute term for “former”. A trans woman’s dead name is more than a former name (as people might have who change their names for other reasons). It is a pain, a wound, one that can never heal. In part this is because while it doesn’t apply to her, it did: it remains there, in her past; there will always be people know her by it. It sits in their memories: it sits in hers. She cannot ever be entirely rid of it, however much she tries (although, of course, we should help and not make matters worse insofar as we can). It is and will remain attached to her, even though it doesn’t fit, and isn’t really her name any more, and (in some sense) maybe never really was.

Similarly, W. is more than simply a former friend; she is a pain, a wound, one that can never heal. In part this is because while the term “friend” doesn’t apply to her, it did: it, she, sits in my memories. I often think of her fondly; other times I hate her—for being small minded, for having betrayed my trust. I want no harm to come to her, and dearly hope she feels anguished by guilt for what she did.12 No, it is not that sometimes I think of her fondly and sometimes I hate: I do both, whenever some treacherous madeline brings her to mind. The conflict is just there, in me.

Even if she were to come to me and say she’d been wrong, could we be friends again?—I mean, I’d try. But I can’t imagine trusting her ever to be really friends again, not as close as we were. I can’t imagine, for instance, talking to her about these issues—even as I desperately hope that, somehow, she finds this blog (she won’t).

I cannot ever entirely be rid of her friendship. It is not my present, but is my past. She was my friend, and remains so in my head, although it’s a burden: the word doesn’t fit. It’s not really true any more. Maybe it never was.

I miss my dead friend.

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(Recurring) Notes on practical matters

This newsletter is a part of Confessions of an Autogynephile, an ongoing memoir in the form of a Stack of Sub essays (with occasional bonus politics thrown in). At least for the foreseeable future, this newsletter will post once a week on Wednesdays, and will be free. (And, yes, I missed the last two weeks; I was on vacation, but had thought I’d have time to update anyway. Foolish of me. What can I say except Oops? It shouldn’t happen again, at least not for a long while.)

If anyone wishes to contact me, I am reachable by email under the handle YorickPenn at gmail, and am on twitter as PennYorick (I don't know why twitter wished that backwards).

At the moment I am known to no-one, having been just (re)born as Yorick I. N. Penn: so there is no one to promote this newsletter to.  (For the obvious reasons, I will not send a link out to my friends and family!)  Therefore, if you know anyone who might find it of interest, I would be grateful if you would send it their way.

Next Week: Trans Women Become Women: Seeking a Third Way on Trans Issues

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1

Not, obviously, her true first (or last) initial. In the spirit of our times, I should introduce her by categories: she is a white cis lesbian.

2

I had written the first draft of this memoir—one that had a narrower focus on my own desires and thoughts, and only touched politics tangentially. I had shown it to my wife, and no one else. I had vague plans to revise it and see if it could be published as a book, but it was hardly a top writing priority for me. It was partly—only partly, and not mostly, but still, partly—as a result of my friend’s canceling me that I decided to reformat my memoir as a series of Substack essays, and to mix in a lot of politics that the first draft had omitted. The fact that trying to bully me in the way that she did backfired (insofar as her aim was not simply to isolate herself from (what she perceived to be) my views, but to influence in some small way the world)) should not surprise: intellectual bullying often leads to a strong reaction. The left, it hardly needs to be said, really needs to internalize this lesson.

3

Or is she Dr. Chu by now? I’ve lost track.

4

This is verbatim except, of course, that instead of calling me “Yorick” she used my Teller name, and signed likewise with hers.

5

The closest thing she had to a fear is a comment she made about being worried that I might make some remark in the presence of her kid. The mental model here is bigotry, so that it will find its way out even if the person does not realize it, and it will harm anyone who hears it (by persuading them? By offending them? It’s unclear.) If she had paid me the basic respect of thinking I might have actually disagreed with her, she would realize I was no more likely to burst out about this issue unwanted than I was about, oh, the idiocy of the filibuster or the necessity for gun control. I only bring those up when I (and those I am with) want to talk about them. Further, if she had thought of it as disagreement, she would have realized that even if I had made a stray remark (which, again, I wouldn’t have) it wouldn’t hurt her kid in any way: at worst her kid might have thought I was a bad person—which now she is sure to think, since presumably W. has explained to her kid why she can’t be friends with my kid any more.

6

Note that I am not saying I disbelieve that; I don’t believe either that or the contrary, a position which I will explain to you, Patient Reader, as I would not to W-as-inquisition, soon.

7

And in the case of climate change, there has, of course, been an overwhelming consensus of experts for decades, and the evidence for it accumulates further every year.

8

This is why I am always stunned to see someone say that they will no longer vote left due to trans (or other culture war) issues. If there is an issue that is life or death for the species, is there really any other issue that matters?

9

Although if you disagree, we can still be friends!

10

Although it’s close.

11

Cue accusations of appropriation in five, four, three…

12

I am virtually certain she doesn’t.