Why I don't write arguments

Published on 2024-01-11

I think there can be something very validating about learning something you already know.

This doesn't feel obvious to me because the idea of teaching someone something they're already familiar with is kind of villanized, and for good reason. It can be really condescending, because often enough, it comes from a place of someone thinking you're less experienced, less wise than you actually are. There's so many intersecting axes of privilege at play there.

But, it can also be validating, sometimes. Well, I can think of at most one case where it can actually feel quite nice.

Whenever I'm "educating" someone on trans issues, I often like to finish things by saying "I'm not a trans educator," or more particularly, "I'm not your educator." A problem we run into quite often is that many cisgender people will often expect us to explain and reaffirm why we deserve the respect we ask of them. That is, if we don't take the time to explain and reaffirm why we deserve respect, they are Morally Right in not extending it to us. This isn't an issue particular to trans education, for what it's worth. I encounter lots of Indigenous, black, and disabled activists complaining about more or less the same thing online all the time. It's a problem all marginalized people who seek to stand up for themselves and others have to deal with at one point or another.

The problem, as I'm sure most of the kind of people who read my gemlog are already aware, is that it's tiring as fuck to have to do this kind of shit all the time. Not to mention, I feel there is very little I can say today to meaningfully change the mind of someone who doesn't care enough to figure things out for themself.

As I've said before, we need people's willingness to Know more than anything.

A leap of faith versus the willingness to Know

For that matter, as I talked about a bit the other day, I have very little interest in writing arguments, especially if I'm arguing for my right to exist and to feel safe in public spaces. Plenty of people have spent enough time and energy doing that.


So I think in a roundabout way I want to take a moment to elaborate on what I was saying in the last paragraph of that article:

I think there is a lot of value in giving these things language. A lot of my writing is just that, I think. I don't try to write "arguments" very often. When I do, I usually focus more on making light of some unique perspective, rather than trying to persuade people to believe anything in particular.

Whether or not I claim to be a "trans educator," I do write a lot of stuff that could amount to "educational resources" regarding transgender people.


Generally in a more abstract way on my gemlog and blog, and in a less abstract way on the fediverse.

But I almost never write these things with the intention of educating people.

"Whipping Girl" by Julia Serano is, by and large, a book that educates you on what it feels like to be a transsexual woman, or particularly what it feels like to be Julia Serano--a transsexual woman. I read that book a number of years ago. Just recently an old friend of mine has been reading it as well, and we were talking about it the other week.

Ostensibly, we found that the book described a lot of things we already knew. Like, literally, Serano is describing a lived experience very similar to ours in her book. But that didn't make it less valuable, per se. In fact, I think "Whipping Girl" has been very influential in my life. I even gave a copy to my family when I moved out.

What mattered more was that it put concrete language to things that would have otherwise remained ephemeral experiences. For example, "Whipping Girl" was probably the first place I was seriously introduced to the idea of what she called cissexual privilege. The things she had to say about it went a long way towards helping me understand the circumstances of my own life.

When you put language to something ephemeral, it starts to feel more concrete.

What matters to me the most, I feel, is creating a context where these things that otherwise might not make sense, can feel real in a meaningful way.

Even if I already felt these things, I'm not sure if I could go as far as to say that I really "knew" them. It's only when something gets conceptualized that we can truly understand it.

Conceptualization can be difficult. There are some things that we aren't supposed to conceptualize at our own expense.

A really significant example of this for me is Guy Debord's "The Society of the Spectacle," where he introduces the Spectacle, which is kind of like this other-worldly thing, this representation of the world in only two-dimensional terms, that gets produced as a result of a number of functions of modern life. It's hard to qualify, exactly, but when I first learned about it, it put a lot of things I had a hard time expressing into context. It enabled me to understand and communicate this thing I'd been less than consciously struggling with for so long, and that was a very powerful experience.

And that's what I want my writing to be. I don't want to be persuasive; I want to help myself and others make things feel more real by using the conceptualizing power of language.

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