The Problem With The System

Did you know that I ran for public office years ago? Yeah, and even though I was clearly the superior candidate, I lost horribly. And I’m not just saying that because I lost, the two chuckleheads I was running against had no earthly clue what the hell they were talking about. Judy Lubow, the current director of RTD, actually referred to bus service as “limousine service”. Lee Kemp had an obvious conflict of interest when he worked for Motor Coach Industries. And yet, I was unable to beat both of these obvious frauds.

The principle of popular election is a fatal folly; its results are visible in every so-called democracy. The elected man is always the mediocrity; he is the safe man, the sound man, the man who displeases the majority less than any other; and therefore never the genius, the man of progress and illumination

Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley’s words totally ring true about the American political system. I got a response from an underinformed voter to a comment I made recently. This is what she said:

The Misinformed Voter

I remember when you ran for the board in my district. I didn’t vote for you. I prefer when people know the difference between a “date” and a “year.” I also prefer people who understand the complexities of interagency agreements and fiduciary limitations. That’s not you.

Obviously, this is someone who didn’t watch any of the debates nor do any sort of research at all. So, I told her:

It’s sad that you chose not to vote for the superior candidate in the race

Oh, trust me, she couldn’t just let that slide. No, she had to show how much of a fool she was. This is what she said next.

You keep telling yourself that’s what happened. The truth is I voted for the most informed candidate, not the one with a vendetta against RTD regarding Longmont. The situation is complex and your ideas are simplistic and unrealistic. There is a reason you didn’t win.

Wait, that contradicts what she said above, which is that she “didn’t vote for” me. Did she vote for Judy Lubow, who compared basic bus service to “limousine service”? Or did she vote for Lee Kemp, who claimed that Public Private Partnerships were the best solution in spite of the overwhelming evidence that they don’t work in every transit project they’ve been attempted in? Either way, if she didn’t vote for me, she didn’t vote “for the most informed candidate”, unless she’s claiming that Lee Kemp was lying.

Also, how the hell am I “telling myself that’s what happened”? She said that’s what happened in her original response to me. She said that she didn’t vote for me. I just said that it’s sad that she chose not to vote for the superior candidate in the race and when I point that out, she backtracks.

The reason I didn’t win

The fact remains that the reason I didn’t win was due to the fact that, by and large, the American voter tends to be incredibly misinformed. It’s a really fucked up situation where people like Mike Gogulski and Glen Lee Roberts are vilified and told that they should try to fix the system from within. How the hell can they when good, honest, hard-working, well-informed people lose out to people who clearly are dishonest, lazy, and misinformed?

America is Fucked

I didn’t win because the system is designed to shake off any steps to try to reform it. Mike Gogulski said it best in his interview with Radio Slovakia International concerning his renunciation of U.S. citizenship.

With respect to politicians there’s a couple of important things that I believe. The first is that the desire for power over other human beings really ought to be considered a sort of mental illness. The other is that politicians, especially at the national level… they don’t hold the real power in the system. The real power is held by what you could call plutocratic interests… the politicians are the instruments for the implementation of their policy.

Mike Gogulski

The thing is, people like Jennifer aren’t just misinformed. They are enabling the system that keeps America fucked by the plutocratic interests. The clear disconnect from reality that people like Jennifer demonstrate shows that America cannot be saved from plutocrats and those who serve them eagerly and willingly, like Judy Lubow and Lee Kemp.

Maybe it’s time to leave?

The United States has shown that it has a broken system that it is unwilling to fix. Progressive candidates who want to fix the problems with the system are routinely maligned as “idealistic”, “simplistic”, “unrealistic”, and accused of having a “vendetta”. This attitude is what allows grifters like Judy Lubow and Lee Kemp to take advantage of the electorate. As long as there are people like this who refuse to see the reality before them, it’s time to leave.

Selling a Piece of Blue Sky, Part 3: Route Banal

The third and final, painfully dull painting, the ever popular “The Hunt”. Horses, hounds and constipated British lords. Some smartass spoke about the banality of evil. If that’s true, then we’ve in the 7th circle of hell. (turns off tape recorder and pauses, then turns it back on) It does have its charms.

Mike Enslin in 1408, describing the room.

You know, I won’t judge Benjamin Kepner on the things that are common to the industry. One of those things is the banality that can be common in web development. Whether it’s moving something a few pixels or something, there can be quite a bit of banality in web development. The thing is, there was nothing exciting about my work with Benjamin Kepner. Nothing that filled me with excitement about the role. It was filled with dread, banality, and boredom and I gotta say, this made leaving GSMM like the end of a gaol sentence.

Contrast this with any of my other roles and I could tell you that there was something that excited me about those roles (and the work).

While this point could be made in any of the posts about the GSMM experience, in keeping with playing with the chapter titles in Half-Life 2 and Concerned, I’ll insert Route Banal here.

Death by Meetings

The thing is, Benjamin loves needless meetings and phone conversations. This is because Benjamin loved being in, what my ex-boss called, “The Babysitters Club”:

However, the fact remains that meetings are toxic. Recurring meetings, especially so. And while they’re a beautiful way to waste billable hours, they’re not fulfilling. They’re literally the junk food of work… but worse, since junk food is at least tasty. So, they’re the diet soda of work.

At least these people had doughnuts.

Talking in circles

When talking with Benjamin Kepner on the phone, it was a frustrating experience since he tended to talk in circles. He likes to assume you don’t know things that you’ve mentioned to him even in the same conversation. The longer my time with GSMM went on, the more I dreaded seeing Ben’s name appear on my iPhone. The silver lining of my T-Mobile service lapsing because Benjamin couldn’t be arsed to pay me what I was owed is that I’ll be getting a new phone number soon.

This is not what I signed up for

Literally, I was given an endless amount of little tasks to do while at GSMM. Nothing big nor exciting. Nothing I could brag about or talk about at parties. And this continued on for months.

So, now that you know how boring working for GSMM was, we’ll close part 3 and in part 4, we’ll talk about how Global Social Media Marketing couldn’t be arsed to follow best practices. This, in spite, of many reasons to do so and how much time it would save.

Also, unlike meetings with Ben… this post was mercifully short.

Selling a Piece of Blue Sky, Part 2: Dread Letter Day

So, my first meeting with Benjamin was at a Starbucks. Now, let me make it clear, I’m not a big fan of Starbucks. Being someone starting a co-op, I’m more interested in supporting locally owned, small coffee shops. If I had it my way, I’d have suggested a few local coffee shops such as Mugs (near the CSU campus). But whatever. While I can see the appeal of going to a chain coffee shop, still…

View this post on Instagram

Be a local. Shop local. #shoplocal #ftcollins

A post shared by Mugs Coffee Lounge (@mugscoffeelounge) on

So, upon meeting Benjamin (after he got lost since he thought we were meeting at the Starbucks in the King Soopers… another problem with chain coffee shops), we got to talking about what I’ll be doing for Global Social Media Marketing. This conversation went fairly normally, but in it, I got my first red flag: he describes himself as a positive person.

Red Flag #1: Positive Thinking

Now, let me make myself clear, positive thinking isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. But, as Barbara Ehrenreich said in her book “Bright-Sided” (emphasis mine):

What would it mean in practice to eliminate all the ‘negative people’ from one’s life? It might be a good move to separate from a chronically carping spouse, but it is not so easy to abandon the whiny toddler, the colicky infant, or the sullen teenager. And at the workplace, while it’s probably advisable to detect and terminate those who show signs of becoming mass killers, there are other annoying people who might actually have something useful to say: the financial officer who keeps worrying about the bank’s subprime mortgage exposure or the auto executive who questions the company’s overinvestment in SUVs and trucks. Purge everyone who ‘brings you down,’ and you risk being very lonely, or, what is worse, cut off from reality.

Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

The thing is, hard truths can help us learn about ourselves and make us better people. This is why people who describe themselves as “positive” or “positive thinkers” freak me the hell out. Not to mention, being one of those people who loves watching YouTube vids reading r/antiMLM, you see the folly of “positive thinking”. Not to mention, it makes it harder for people to share their true feelings. Avoiding hard truths in the name of “positivity” makes you worse off, not better off.

Balance, the Middle Way, and the Buddha

A painting of the Buddha meditating under a Bodhi tree
The Buddha meditating under a Bodhi tree.

Now, I’m not saying people should be negative 24/7. It’s about having a middle ground (like the Buddha said). For those of you who don’t know a goddamned thing about Buddhism, the Middle Way is a key part of Buddhism and the Buddha’s story. Born into royalty, he was surrounded by opulence and could have been contented to live that way until he saw four things. Those four things shook the foundation of his belief system to the point where he renounced everything and followed the path of the ascetic. It was another extreme where he got to a point where he was starving himself. So, after meditating under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha had discovered the importance of the Middle Way. Balance in all things. And that’s the whole damned point of me bringing up this story about the Buddha: balance is necessary.

The problem is that positive thinkers who identify themselves as such, tend to refuse to see the obstacles in their path. They get really stressed out or frustrated when things don’t go their way. As you’ll see in future instalments, Benjamin Kepner is one of those people. Whereas, I am not. After all, it is my goal in life to be the best “me” that I can be (as trite and cliché a statement as that is). In order to do that, I need to accept my flaws, embrace them, and learn how to make myself better.

Noxious Positive Thinking, MLMs, and Cults

What Benjamin Kepner believes in is something I’ve termed “noxious positive thinking”. It’s a form of “positive thinking” that has very little positive about it. It could be characterized as blowing rainbows and unicorns up someone’s ass. It also has its place in organizations where “positive thinking” can be used as a thought stopping mechanism to circumvent critical thinking, such as cults and MLMs.

In her tale about her experience with Younique, Elle Beau (probably not her real name) talked about this. She talked about the dark side to this noxious positive thinking and this “fake it ’till you make it” attitude. I’ll talk about how it impacted Benjamin later and how he took it out on me in later parts (especially in my last two months at GSMM). However, his attitude was not too dissimilar from Scarlett’s in Elle’s story.

I tried to tell him about this (but in a bit more diplomatic manner) and we move on to our second red flag.

Red Flag #2: Imperviousness to Advice

Here’s the thing. Ben isn’t completely impervious to advice. After all, he did make some changes to GSMM’s branding that I suggested. However, that’s not hard when you consider the fact that GSMM’s previous logo was a shape he ripped from Google. However, I told him about many things he could do to not only make money in the short term but get higher returns in the long run. One of which is to build his personal brand alongside GSMM’s. After all, this is a strategy that has paid off for Michael Hyatt, Chris Guillebeau, Chris Goins, and Steve Pavlina. And clearly, he didn’t take my advice considering I own benjaminkepner.com and not him.

Additionally, I suggested that his website should look more professional in order. This was in order to generate higher conversions. Not to mention, the need to be compliant with Gutenberg. After all, Gutenberg was coming to WordPress 5 and was two or three months away at this point).

Ending our Meeting (and Part 2)

So, with two red flags flown, what else can be said? I think finishing the story about meeting Benjamin Kepner is crucial to wrapping up this sordid ordeal. So, we moved on from Starbucks to Torchy’s Tacos. We continued to talk about what could be done for GSMM, Manuel Solis, and his other clients. While I did have my guard up, I still had a bit of hope that this could be a good thing. Oh, how naive I was. But now that we’re at two red flags and the end of my first meeting with Benjamin, I’ll leave it off here.

In Part 3, I’ll talk about the weird ways Benjamin does business, death by meetings (red flag #3), and starting with the law firm. We’re around late October/early November right now and trust me, the shitshow has barely gotten started.

Selling a Piece of Blue Sky, Part 1: Pointless Insertion

This is a series I’m writing about my time with Global Social Media Marketing, a company I joined as a web developer in 2018. It’s also the tale of how I decided to stop being a freelance web developer. If you’re interested in how this all kicked off, check out the Prologue.

Joining Up

You see, I had been in a downward spiral since I left Greystone. Even though I had a few temporary assignments with companies like Shane Co and Article One Partners, I was struggling. Not to mention, I also needed capital to kickstart Elysium Studios. I was interviewing at a wide variety of places and having a hard time getting my foot in the door. Part of it was my approach. I applied to anything and everything that was tangentially related to my tech stack so while I was able to get my foot in the door, I didn’t have much success staying in.

That’s why I decided to start being a bit more surgical with my approach. I started only focusing on opportunities based in the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) and LEMP (Linux, Nginx, MariaDB, PHP) stacks and specifically targeting WordPress roles. I even applied for a few freelance roles that involved my tech stack because, hey, why not? Gotta pay the bills somehow. One of them was for Manuel Solis Law Firm. Out of the blue on the 12th of October, I was contacted by their marketing “guru” (using that term VERY loosely), Benjamin Kepner.

A Wild Benjamin Kepner Appears!

It’s pretty obvious from the get go that Benjamin Kepner was a pretty dodgy bloke. The position I had applied for was with Manuel Solis Law Firm, a law firm based in Houston. It wasn’t advertised that I would be working with this guy and the weird relationship between Manuel Solis and this guy. In fact, to this day, I couldn’t make heads or tails of who I was supposed to report to. This created problems with the law firm that made it harder for me to do my work. It also resulted in a loss of trust and thus, they were ill prepared for WordPress 5.

Towards the end of our interview, we talked about bringing me on as GSMM’s web developer. We would start at five hours a week. I agreed to this because, hey, more billable hours is always a good thing. The pay was pretty shit at $22 per hour, but I was kinda desperate. For a frame of reference, I earned $50/hour at Shane Co. and $52.50/hour at Article One Partners. So, against my better judgment, I agreed upon it. Also, all of this was under the table, which just added to the dodginess.

Lessons Learned

I had done things at the start of this contract that I would not do now. For starters, I didn’t have a contract that protected my interests. Also, I started at a rate that was less than half of what I deserved. This is based on education, experience, and the market for web developers in the Denver area. But these aren’t lessons that you couldn’t have learned from Mike Monteiro’s speech about client relations, “Fuck you, pay me”.

In Conclusion

In Part 2, I am going to talk about the first time I met Benjamin Kepner. I’ll also bring up the first two red flags I noticed at our first meeting. I’ll also talk about the pitfalls of positivity culture and how it can hinder personal and professional growth.

A Quick Update

Just so you know, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. I’m still planning to release the next part of “Selling a Piece of Blue Sky” but I’m currently swamped with finishing up the Elysium Studios website. I’m also working with the artists on the project to finish up the trailer so we can launch the Kickstarter next month. Ideally, the website will be live by Friday or Saturday and we can start promoting the visual novel more aggressively.

Next week, I’ll get back to exposing the truth about Benjamin Kepner. But the most important thing is launching Elysium Studios and My First Castellan.

On Migrating to ProtonMail: The Importer

So, since yesterday, I started moving my e-mail from older e-mail accounts to my brand new, shiny ProtonMail account. Now, I’ve already migrated my v@vero.moe account to ProtonMail from G Suite and it was relatively painless. However, I also have an older e-mail account with over ten years worth of e-mails that I’m currently importing. Since the username for that older account is a bit embarrassing, I’d rather not show it, but here’s the import in action:

ProtonMail Import/Export app processing an import of 79,000 e-mails.

What ProtonMail got right

I’d like to start this post with a positive, partly because I am planning to release Part 1 of “Selling a Piece of Blue Sky” today. Even thinking back on my time at GSMM tends to throw me into a funk. Knowing that, I’d much rather like to try to minimize the impact. So, I’ll talk about one thing that ProtonMail got right in their import and export app.

ProtonMail’s import/export app is still in beta and quite honestly, it feels that way. Though, they did get one thing right. It appears if you need to run a secondary import (for whatever reason), that you might not run the risk of re-importing mail that you’ve already imported.

What ProtonMail should improve upon

Firstly, I’d love to see the entire import/export process available through their web interface. I think having to download an application to import my e-mails is problematic. I also think that in bringing it to their web interface, you could use GMail and G Suite’s OAuth interface. But then again, given that Google has some serious issues with privacy, that might not be the best option. Having said that, though, there shouldn’t be any problem with doing an import via IMAP or POP3.

It’s also worth noting that you may need to babysit the app as it’s doing the import. Sometimes, it’ll ask you to “Retry”, “Skip” or end the transfer. For big transfers, it can be a pain to have the whole thing halted for one e-mail. It would be nice if it could hold the e-mails it has problems with aside so that you don’t have to babysit the process. My G Suite e-mail had roughly 30,000 e-mails and my older e-mail account has around 79,000 e-mails to import. Now, how would you feel if the app held up an import of around 110,000 e-mails because of a few?

The importer app holds up the process to ask about an e-mail.
Almost immediately after I hit “post”, I saw this message.

Additionally, I’d love to see a verbose mode to see which e-mails are being imported at the time. Given how big the window is, you could put the progress bar at the top or the bottom. Then, you have plenty of space to show a list of your e-mails as they are imported.

Selling a Piece of Blue Sky, Part 0: Prologue

This is a series I’m writing about my time with Global Social Media Marketing, a company I joined as a web developer in 2018. It’s also the tale of how I decided to stop being a freelance web developer.

The goal of this story is to discuss my time with Global Social Media Marketing (or GSMM) and to give the public a view of what went on behind the scene at the time. Names will be changed to protect the innocent. Ben’s clients are just as much victims as I was, and I don’t want to humiliate them here. However, I am not changing the names of anyone who worked with GSMM. If you’re fool enough to put this on your resume/LinkedIn, then it shouldn’t be too hard for readers to decipher who’s who. I am certainly not changing the names of the antagonists.

So, how did GSMM stop me from being a freelance web developer?

Basically, my experience with GSMM was nothing short of horrific. I mean, while working with any of my previous employers, there was a little bit of friction but I would consider coming back in a heart beat. Hell, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m planning to move across the country soon, I would apply again for a role at Greystone (since it appears they just started re-hiring for the position I was at back in March of last year). The people at Greystone were amazing to me and it was a real tragedy to leave Greystone.

GSMM, on the other hand, was the freelance client from hell. Almost anything a freelance client has said about their worst freelance client could be said about GSMM. Hell, there was even a little sexual harassment to boot. I’ll admit that I don’t have the best client voice in the industry. And any web developer knows exactly what I am talking about.


But the fact that I just tried to link talking to clients to the “white voice” from Sorry to Bother You tells you exactly how I feel about client interactions. A little bit of duplicity is necessary in order to keep clients from freaking the hell out. When paired with a good account manager or project manager, a web developer shouldn’t have to use the “client voice” too much.

So, does that mean that I’m no longer going to be coding for a living?

Hell no.

What it does mean, however, is that I’m going to be a bit more choosy about who I work for. It also means that I’m not going to be doing freelance work. Currently, I’m working on getting Elysium Studios off the ground. In this time, I’ve also decided to start learning Objective-C, C++, Java, Rust and a couple of other languages. I’m committed to be a part of Elysium for the next few years but I do want to keep myself open to opportunities with companies whose missions I can get behind, such as Automattic or Mozilla.

It also means I’m going to be trying new things over the next year. This includes raising my profile as a WordPress expert. I got Global Entry for a reason, after all. I’m planning to attend a variety of conferences over the next few years. Both as an attendee and as a presenter. I’m also exploring things such as the Estonian e-residency scheme and a few other things. I’ll let you know how everything goes in the months and years ahead.

But I’m no longer open to freelance opportunities.

So, why am I writing this series about GSMM?

I have a number of reasons for writing about my time with GSMM. But three are particularly salient.

Catharsis

Part of it is catharsis. Working at GSMM was rough and being able to work through the issues in text is important. Additionally, I didn’t like the person I was becoming when I was at GSMM. I need to work through what happened in order to try to undo some of the damage.

Concern for the community

The other part is concern for the community. I don’t want any other web developer to experience what I’ve experienced. Based on his actions, it is highly doubtful that Benjamin Kepner will ever change for the better. He regards any criticism against his shoddy business practices as a “personal attack”. That’s a fundamental difference between him and I.

You see, I embrace good faith criticism because I believe in radical self improvement. The comfort zone is where progress stagnates. Leaders such as Michael Hyatt routinely talk about the importance of trips outside your comfort zone.

A response to coercion

Additionally, I was threatened by a couple of people at GSMM. Donny (who I’ll introduce you to in a later post) and Benjamin both threatened legal action if I told you the truth about what occurred at GSMM. Originally, I had just written a letter to my (now) former coworkers at GSMM and their clients. I was also planning to publish it on a domain name I had only recently acquired, benjaminkepner.com. Now, I’m planning to write a multi-part series about my experience with GSMM.

Donny or Benjamin, if you’re reading this, this is the summary of my response to you:

So, with the preliminaries out of the way, I’ll begin posting to this series every Tuesday and Thursday until the whole story is told.

My Global Entry Interview

So yesterday, I travelled to Denver International Airport to conduct my Global Entry interview.

For those of you who don’t know, Global Entry is a trusted traveller programme administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It is a way for low-risk travellers to be able to quickly clear customs and immigration when arriving in the United States. Since it also includes TSA Precheck, it is an invaluable programme that can save a traveller a lot of time.

Or, as CBP would tell it…

So, what was it like?

The airport could improve their wayfinding, as the offices for enrolling in Global Entry can be tough to find. In Denver, the offices are to your right when you’re facing the doors to greet international arrivals. When you get to the door, you have to pick up a phone and dial an extension to let them know you’re there and to come get you.

When I was in the waiting area, I was asked a few questions. Basically, what I do for work, why I want to join Global Entry, have I ever been fingerprinted before, etc. I was also asked to read a note that was pasted at eye level in order to understand that:

  1. I have to follow the guidelines of the programme.
  2. I’m still obligated to declare stuff I bring to the United States to CBP.
  3. That I need to supply airlines my known traveller number in order to actually receive the TSA Precheck benefit.

I was then fingerprinted and a photo was taken. Basically, I was in and out within 15 minutes or so. Ten minutes after that, I received e-mail notification that I was in the programme. It was quite cordial, but the interviewers are CBP officers with guns, so there is still an air of officiousness.

How long did it take me to get Global Entry?

It took me seventeen days to get from application to accepted into Global Entry. And I think it was mostly due to interview availability. If I was able to get an interview the day after I got my conditional approval, it would have been just eight days. This was my timeline:

  • Submitted my application: 20 February
  • Received conditional approval: 27 February
  • Interview: 8 March
  • Acceptance: 8 March

I’ve heard rumours that once you receive your conditional approval, you are basically in the programme. While I cannot speak to the veracity of that claim, it seems to pan out in my case.

How To Really Eradicate Transphobia

So, I was browsing Twitter last night before I went to sleep. I saw this little gem from Hot Cis Takes, which is a compilation Twitter account:

It reads as though it was written either by a trans person who hates themselves or by a TERF. But I’ll address the five suggestions they have. Quotations from the original image are posted because the image resolution is of beer goggles quality.

Stop Calling People What They Are

Don’t call women cis or TERFs, be friendly towards them, don’t argue, don’t force your way into female only spaces or demand acceptance.

Yeah, I know the image calls it “stop calling women names”, but that’s not what’s going on here. When people are called “cis” or “TERFs”, it’s not a matter of name calling. It’s a description, either of behaviour or their gender. If you’re assigned the correct gender at birth, you’re cisgender. If not, you’re transgender. That’s really all “cis” means. Calling someone cis is as offensive as calling someone white. Additionally, the use of the label “cis” is a more accurate label than “normal”, “genetic”, “biological” or any term that has been previously used to refer to women assigned the correct gender at birth.

As for calling people “TERFs”, typically people don’t get called that unless they engage in rhetoric that is common from TERFs. The message here is that TERFs shouldn’t be called out for their odious behaviour. This is obviously not a way to “eradicate transphobia”… if anything, it’s a way to enable it. And you have no obligation to “be friendly” towards people looking to deny your humanity nor should you be expected not to argue. Additionally, trans women have a right to be in “female only spaces” given the fact that we’re female. If we’re wrongfully excluded because we’re transgender, we shouldn’t take it lying down. We must demand equality and our rights.

Stop Putting the Blame Where It Belongs

Stop blaming everyone for your problems. It’s not all only about you. Respect others, be modest and polite. Stop being a victim! Don’t seek haters, bigots and transphobes everywhere, and you may find more friends.

Yeah, yeah, I know the original image said “Stop Seeking Haters” but let’s be real, this is what they really meant. The gist of this paragraph is to discourage trans people from holding people accountable for their actions and to paint those of us who do as irrationally seeing “haters, bigots and transphobes everywhere”.

The best way to end transphobia is to call out transphobic behaviour. Tell them what’s wrong with their action in detail. Not just for the person who engaged in the transphobic behaviour but also for the benefit of anyone spectating. Pushback is critical in order to help educate people on why transphobia is wrong and what is transphobia. When you don’t put the blame where it belongs, you aren’t doing the work necessary to spark social change. Which leads us to our next point…

Change Starts With You

Work on yourself, be, look like, act, talk and walk like the gender you believe you’re [sic] and become a better person in every other way. You will see less misgendering & transphobia.

Finally, a section where I didn’t have to change the title, though I still disagree with their conclusion. Firstly, I will get the pedantic shit out of the way before I address the meat of this hot, steaming pile of bullshit. Transgender people aren’t “the gender [we] believe [we are]” any more than cisgender people are, and the phrasing would be weird if I didn’t already have enough data to say with confidence that this post is about enabling transphobes.

Yes, if it is harder for people to read that you’re transgender, you’ll see less misgendering and transphobia. And I’m not going to bash on anyone who feels the need to do so in order to get some respite from this horribly transphobic society. But I refuse to go stealth, even after getting FFS and vocal surgery. Why? Well, I’m going to quote a certain visual novel.

If you can breathe, you can stand. If you can stand, you can fight.

Olivia Nevakris, quoting Luther Nevakris in The Royal Romance, a story in Choices.

Their title was true in that change does start with you. But it is not predicated on you fading into the background like so many of the trans people who came before did. One of the worst legacies of the gender clinics of the late 20th century is that the programmes required trans women to be silent and fade into obscurity.

Start Denying Pseudoscience

Be realistic. Humans don’t change sex and sex is binary. You may change your looks and have a better life in a new gender role but there’s no magic to turn you into the opposite sex.

Again, I’m rewriting their headers, as this one was called “Stop Denying Science”. A common refrain from transphobes is that trans people are denying science when we live authentically. I’m hoping to write a whole series of articles about the actual science backing being transgender. However, since they didn’t say anything scientific that I can refute, I’m just going to leave it hanging that transphobia is the pseudoscientific position, not being transgender.

Some of the gender identities that have been discovered in the past few decades.

Having said that, sex isn’t binary. There are axes that sex can fall upon, such as genetic, endocrinological, anatomical, neurological, etc. and I don’t think that you can honestly believe that it is binary, given all the variables. The existence of gender non-conforming people only helps further the doubt that sex is binary.

The point of transition isn’t to “change sex”, so to a certain extent, I agree that “humans don’t change sex”. Rather, transgender people transition in order to make our bodies fit who we actually are on the inside. It’s not “magic” that turns us “into the opposite sex”. No amount of willpower makes a transgender person stop being transgender. The best we can do is to transition, and this is what the responsible medical and mental health authorities recommend in order for us to live healthy, happy lives.

Fight For Respect and Acceptance

Don’t force others to accept and love you. Don’t force your beliefs down people’s throats and minds, don’t silence, intimidate or threaten them if they don’t accept you. Wait! Patience and respect will get you much further.

I think there’s a bit of confusion as they’re trying to equate the respect you must earn (as an authority) as opposed to the basic human respect we should all have. I don’t think that trans people should have to “earn” respect or acceptance but the fact remains that in our transphobic world, we are compelled to fight for it.

We’re not talking abut “beliefs” here, we’re talking about basic human dignity. People should accept you for who you are. If they refuse to respect your basic humanity, you have the right and obligation to call them out. You shouldn’t be expected to wait for people to stop being transphobic and finally accept you for who you really are. If they won’t do it on their own, call them out for their shitty behaviour. Hold them accountable.

Patience will get you nowhere and you have no obligation to respect a belief that who you really are shouldn’t be respected. You have to stand up to those who threaten to oppress you. You have to point out how flawed and factually bereft their assertions are. Do it to the point where people see their arguments lacking merit.

Wrapping It Up

The image has a couple of final quotes to wrap up, and after I address them, I can give you my conclusion.

Transphobic groups aren’t “women’s rights groups”

For more practical tips just consult transsexuals who were through all that before you and don’t see women’s rights groups as their enemies.

Trans people don’t see women’s rights groups as our enemies. However, I would bet hard money that the “women’s rights groups” this image references aren’t actual women’s rights groups. Actual women’s rights groups would never advocate letting your oppressor walk all over you as this image advocates. It reminds me about what Martin Luther King, Jr. said about the white moderate.

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

The parallels are so stark, it’s uncanny. King warns about the white moderate, who is more interested in order than justice. Hell, the people who wrote this image don’t even agree with us in the goal we seek – to end transphobia. But almost everything in this quote could be equally applied to the people who would agree with this image.

… But women can be cis.

Women aren’t cis. Trans women are trans women. We can all get along together.

While not all women are cis, women can be cis. This clearly reeks of a wilful misunderstanding of the word “cis”. The fact remains that not only can women be cis, most people in this world (yes, including women) are cis.

The next sentence, however, is quite telling. Yes, trans women are trans women, this is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said. However, this echoes a TERF talking point that trans women aren’t actually women but rather “trans women”. This phrasing allows TERFs to use the term “trans women” without seeing us as the women we actually are. After all, many of the phrases TERFs use to define us (i.e. “trans-identified male” and “trans rights activist”) don’t really work in the larger society. So, saying “trans women are trans women” may sound obvious, but it allows TERFs to mentally justify using the phrase without admitting the fact that we’re women.

Summing Up My Thoughts (or TL;DR)

This is undoubtedly some of the worst advice you can give someone for combating transphobia. It is an ill-conceived attempt to blame the victims of transphobia and disempower us from making our society better for trans people. It may work on some people who have bought into cissexist narratives, but it won’t work on me. In the past few years I’ve been in the Green Party and studying social justice movements, I know nothing gets done this way. We have to fight to counter oppression.

The Civil Rights Act didn’t happen by asking politely for rights. Marriage equality didn’t happen by “respecting” the ridiculous notion that we don’t deserve the right to marry. When it comes to equal rights, compromise is unacceptable and is a delay of social justice. And, to quote Martin Luther King again, “justice delayed is justice denied”.