It’s a #CrookedWorld, and We’re All Just Living In it

2016 was terrible for a host of reasons. Prince died. Brexit happened. Independence Day without Will Smith. And that’s not even mentioning an election full of email servers, sexist comments and two amnesia filled moments for Gary Johnson. (Actually – those were pretty funny.) But, 2016 was truly a lost cause because of the one thing that none of us knew we were missing – the Crooked Media empire.

Pod Save America Outside Trump Tower
The Pod Save America gang outside Trump Tower (Pod Save America Twitter)
Like the rest of us, Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett and Tommy Vietor (and weekly guest host Dan Pfeiffer) spent 2016 obsessively following politics and trying to assuage the feeling that Donald Trump was consuming America faster than a man-eating virus. Except, while we were all sitting at bars and crying into our beers, they were hosting the Keepin’ it 1600 podcast for The Ringer. (In case you’re feeling nostalgic for a simpler time, The Ringer still has some of the shows available for streaming.) When the election news knocked us all down, the boys decided that now was the time to take their audience, and their charming sense of impropriety, in a new direction. Enter Crooked Media, which they describe as a “place to talk about politics the way actual human beings talk.” They started in January with one show, Pod Save America, and have since expanded to a roster of 5 shows producing 6 episodes a week.

So what makes this grouping so magical? A show built on the idea of three young white guys sitting in a room laughing at each others jokes doesn’t immediately spell success. Part of the appeal comes from the fact that, as their mission statement suggests, they talk more like your friends at a bar than the pundits on television. In a world full of confusion and political spin, everyone from the most obsessive to the most casual news consumer is looking for a forthright option. Most, if not all of us, are looking for smart people who can help make sense of a political climate that no longer seems to add up. Little did any of us think that we would find the straightforward solution in a group that proudly wears the mantle of being ‘crooked’.

Pod Save America Logo
We are all George Washington (Pod Save America Twitter)
Besides being educational, Crooked Media also brings an easy candor to conversations about hard topics. After 2016 many of us thought that we would never laugh again, but the company has unabashedly and successfully staked its claim at the intersection of scholastic and sarcastic. Pod Save America episodes include a run-down of the most salient news topics plus an interview with a leading politician, organizer, journalist or other noteworthy figure, which usually begin with the boys asking their guests the loaded and appropriate question ‘Since Donald Trump is president – how are you doing?’

This popularity paved the way for the corresponding show Pod Save the World, where Tommy Vietor showcases his foreign policy capabilities with today’s experts. Friend of the Pod (a status which we all covet) Ana Marie Cox now has her own show, With Friends like These, which discusses the different ways we can bridge divides, while activist DeRay Mckesson just launched Pod Save the People. This article would be remiss (and probably called out by the man himself) if it didn’t mention that Jon Lovett also has his own spin-off, Lovett or Leave It, which is a celebrity filled game show focused solely on the news. A strange combination that, as the title implies, either you’ll love, or you won’t.

In roughly five months, Crooked Media has grown from 3 guys with a dream (or, three and a half if you count Dan Pfeiffer) to a company with at least one of their podcasts consistently in the Apple Podcast App’s Top Ten List every week. (Specific streaming numbers are hard to come by, but they have almost 14,000 reviews on Pod Save America alone.) The question remains as to whether their blistering brand of information and irritation (mostly Jon Lovett) will continue to be relevant as the Trump autocracy (excuse me, so called democracy) continues to unfold. But, for right now, it’s enough that they are hitting a nerve (and a funny bone) in a way that the American people seem to desperately need.

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Fake news isn’t the problem.

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Recently, The New York Times has sparked a fierce debate amongst journalists and readers by hiring rape apologist, climate change denier, racist, and Islamophobe Bret Stephens, supposedly in order to bring a conservative voice to the Times‘ (already right-leaning) op-ed page. The argument further exploded after the Times published Stephens’ first column, which was entirely dedicated to climate change denial. Stephens’ claims were immediately debunked by journalists and scientists alike, but that did not stop defenders of Stephens from claiming that critics were trying to insulate themselves in a “liberal bubble” and silence conservative voices.

I wrote earlier about how hiring conservative writers to create a supposed ideological diversity is not the diversity the overwhelmingly white, cisgender, heterosexual male New York Times needs, but now that the Times has been forced to justify publishing Stephens’ absurd first column, there is much more to dig into.

But let’s back up a bit. Why, exactly, did the Times feel the need to hire a man who denies the existence of climate change and the rape epidemic, attacks Muslims, Arabs, and black Americans, and calls hunger in America an “imaginary enem[y]”? It goes back to the media’s ridiculous post-mortem on the results of the 2016 presidential election.

Following Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory, the (white) liberal media had an existential crisis about how shocked it was at the results. (Reminder: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.) Rather than take responsibility for their undying, cynical obsession with Hillary Clinton’s emails that not only sunk her popularity, but also massively overshadowed legitimate policy coverage, the media blamed its own (white) liberal bias and decided that it needed to diversify – not in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality, status, or education, but in ideology. The media diagnosed its problem as liberal bias, meaning that it needed to balance itself out with more conservative voices. (Interestingly, despite propagating the myth that Trump’s Electoral College victory was rooted primarily in the “white working class” vote, the media has still declined to bring in poor voices, thus staying in its elite bubble.)

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This logic, one that refuses to actually take responsibility for the irresponsible coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails, led to the Times bringing Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens onto its op-ed team. As The New Republic‘s Sarah Jones explained, this reasoning really makes no sense given the current ideological leanings of the Times‘ op-ed section:

It runs from the standard right-wing propaganda of Stephens, to the centrist bromides of David Brooks, to a moderate liberalism that cheers Trump’s bombs on Syria and boos student protesters at Middlebury, to the howling wasteland that is Thomas Friedman’s column, where he screams gibberish at a merciless sky. (His last contribution to public discourse was a blow-by-blow description of playing golf in Dubai with a yogi. Truly, we are blessed.) When she is not describing her intolerance for weed chocolate, Maureen Dowd is commending Donald Trump for being the true dove in the presidential race. Frank Bruni, meanwhile, does whatever it is that Frank Bruni does.

The op-ed page is unbearably white—spare a thought for Charles Blow—and predominantly male. There is space for Ross Douthat to casually wonder if there’s a case to be made for a bigot like Marine Le Pen, but none whatever for a bona fide socialist, even though America’s most popular politician is a democratic socialist. Stephens isn’t even a particularly cogent or striking conservative—he’s bog-standard neoconservative material. His hire can’t even be defended as an attempt to understand the populist insurgence upsetting the Republican Party.

But ultimately, this goes even deeper than the (white) liberal media’s post-election self-critique. There is a deep-seated belief in the media that the voices of “both sides” must always be heard if news is to truly be fair and balanced. While well-intentioned, this belief is absolute nonsense, especially in our current political climate. Simply put, not all opinions are equal, and sometimes one side is simply wrong and not worth giving a platform. Senior Deakin University philosophy lecturer Patrick Stokes covered this issue all the way back in 2012 in a Conversation piece:

The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” – and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.

Stokes used the example of the anti-vaxxer movement. In this case, one side is simply wrong. Vaccines do not cause childhood diseases. That’s a fact. But the media has felt the need to portray “both sides” of the story, forcing actual scientists to defend themselves against anti-vaccine activists whose entire cause is based on lies. By elevating both voices and acting as if anti-vaxxers need to be heard out, the media, whether intentionally or not, validates anti-vaxxers and implies that their “opinions” are just as important as actual facts.

But this is not limited to the vaccine debate. The “both sides” approach to news is applied to every topic, from transgender equality to police brutality to climate change, and so on, and so on. But in case after case, “both sides” are not equally valid, and the voice of one side is not worth elevating whatsoever.

“Both sides” are not equally valid when one believes that we should keep symbols of slavery while the other knows we should not. “Both sides” are not equally valid when one believes that transgender women are fake while the other knows that they are real. “Both sides” are not equally valid when one defends police brutality while the other condemns it. “Both sides” are not equally valid when one side denies scientific facts while the other accepts them. Both sides are not equally valid when the extremists of one side advocate for the extermination of the Jews, the deportation of black and brown immigrants, and the criminalization of queerness while extremists of the other side advocate for universal healthcare, the expansion of the social safety net, and democratic socialism. In all of these cases and many more, one side’s beliefs are rooted in ignorance and bigotry. When that’s the case, both sides do not deserve equal platforms.

While “both sides” journalism is always intellectually dishonest, it is outright dangerous when it comes to discussions of marginalized folks in the United States. Validating the opinions of anti-transgender bigots isn’t being “fair and balanced”; it’s dehumanizing and demeaning trans folks and elevating rhetoric that leads to anti-trans violence. When 11 trans people have already been murdered in the United States in 2017, the stakes are quite high. The media should not be allowing the perpetuation of bigoted myths – such as the ones that trans women are sexual predators or that Black Lives Matter is inherently anti-police – by giving a platform to bigots. By uncritically giving a platform to bigots and forcing marginalized folks to debate their oppressors on live television, or in a Heineken ad, as if marginalized identities and bigotry are equally valid, the supposedly “liberal” media is actively participating in the oppression of marginalized folks.

That isn’t to say that bigots can’t have their bigoted beliefs. They can think and say whatever they want. But it is by no means the responsibility of the media to give a megaphone to those voices. Rather, the media should give a voice to the marginalized folks it has excluded for all of American history. That’s not censorship. It’s simply choosing to do the right thing. Bigots can still say whatever they want, just not on your platform. And if it means creating a “liberal bubble,” then so be it. However, I’d like to hope that respecting, accepting, and embracing marginalized identities is a universal value, not just a liberal one.

This also isn’t to say that the left is perfect and the right is downright evil. Modern American politics are much more complex than a simple liberal-conservative spectrum, especially in our post-election political society. Liberal transphobia and racism are alive and well in 2017, and the Democratic Party is a hot mess regarding its approach to abortion rights. But as The New Republic‘s Brian Beutler wrote following polling results about Trump’s Syria attack:

Negative partisanship—the observable effect that antipathy to the other party has on public opinion—seems, like everything else in U.S. politics, to be asymmetric between the parties. Republicans are the key drivers of it.

[…]

Reflexive even-handedness the analytical foundation of countless news stories, and nearly all punditry, but it wasn’t derived from dispassionate observation of political reality. Rather, it was contrived to burnish the mainstream media claim to political neutrality, and the neutrality of parent companies. But its effect was to leave implacable conservative critics of mainstream culture totally dissatisfied, and has failed every other consumer in the market for accurate, unskewed news and on-the-level commentary. It should have been put to rest long ago, and can’t die soon enough.

This brings us back to Bret Stephens, and why a venerable publication like the Times, which post-election proudly touted itself as a purveyor of truth in a vast sea of fake news, would hire a man who so blatantly rejects reality in order to justify his conservative views.

The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple reached out to the Times for an interview about Stephens’ first column. Times editor James Bennet declined, but gave Wemple this response:

Wemple wrote in his analysis of the response:

In anticipation of future clashes with social media, Bennet would be well-advised to keep that statement in his top drawer, or perhaps a Microsoft Word file. Because it deserves the title “Editorial Page Editor’s Boilerplate Kumbaya Response to Public Outrage.” It could apply to a controversial op-ed on abortion, on gun control, on climate change, on a criminal-justice report, whatever. That’s because it doesn’t grapple with any of the substantive issues raised about the column itself.

When it comes down to it, there’s no real justification for publishing Stephens’ column. If news outlets are going to share falsehoods, it should only be in the context of debunking them. Letting a column like Stephens’ stand on its own, unchallenged, was a mistake, and a mistake it seems that the Times is eager to repeat.

In the first three months after the election, the Times gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers through its “truth” campaign, more than it added in all of 2015. “The truth is more important now than ever,” the Times proudly proclaimed.

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Unfortunately, it’s clear that the Times‘ dedication to “truth” has been overridden by the the mainstream media’s overwhelming obsession with representing “both sides.” The Times and other respected news outlets have loudly touted themselves as the cure for the epidemic of “fake news.” But “real news” cannot be the solution when it so fervently feels the need to prop up bigotry and lies. It looks like “real news” is the real “fake news” in Trump’s America.

Bigots like Ann Coulter don’t deserve platforms

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Conservative icons Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter.

Yet again, the Berkeley College Republicans invited a Nazi-aligned, immigrant-bashing, Muslim-hating, white, blonde conservative to speak at their campus. Yet again, the bigot was met with protests. Yet again, the protests resulted in the bigot canceling their appearance. And yet again, commentators from across the political spectrum are accusing liberal students of censorship, of stamping out “free speech,” and so on, and so on.

The speaker this time was Ann Coulter, a right-wing provocateur who actively courts neo-Nazis and advocated for the mass slaughter of Muslims as revenge for 9/11, among other things. Like Milo Yiannopoulos, the recently fallen star of the alt-right, Coulter and her words are not only inflammatory, but also dangerous. And that’s what should be at this heart of this “free speech” discussion.

Political commentators – who are, unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly white – always discuss “free speech” on college campuses in vague ideological terms. The argument is that even hateful bigots should be granted platforms as college speakers because free speech is an inalienable right. Supposedly, liberal protestors are being close-minded by trying to prevent hateful bigots from speaking. This, apparently, is censorship.

The funny thing is that these discussions only pop up in very specific cases – namely, protests of a conservative speaker by liberals concerned about bigoted and hateful rhetoric. But what about Fordham preventing the formation of a Students for Justice in Palestine group on campus? What about GOP lawmakers trying to criminalize protest altogether? What about police militarization and the surveillance state silencing people, oftentimes through violent means? Those things don’t become national headlines, they don’t receive hours upon hours of debate from conservatives and liberals alike, and why? Because white America doesn’t truly care about protecting hate speech; it cares about protecting its right to say whatever it wants, whenever it wants, wherever it wants, without any consequences whatsoever.

Let’s go back to earlier this year, when Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to speak at Berkeley by the Berkeley College Republicans, who seem to have a real fetish for neo-Nazis. Peaceful protests were invaded by anti-fascist activists who ended up throwing bricks and starting fires, causing Yiannopoulos to cancel his appearance. The media immediately went into an uproar about how liberals were censoring Yiannopoulos, but they forgot to truly examine why students protested him. It is not simply because he is a bigot; it is because giving a platform to his bigotry would put marginalized students in danger.

Yiannopoulos had previously used his college tour to out trans students, putting them at risk of violence and even forcing one to leave their school entirely out of fear. He planned to use his Berkeley appearance to out undocumented students, who are in even more danger now that the Trump regime has vastly expanded the powers of ICE. But all of this, the very real and immediate threat to marginalized students posed by Yiannopoulos’ hateful rhetoric, went ignored by the media in favor of a conversation of a distorted understanding of free speech. And the same is happening with Coulter, whose appearance was canceled due to fear of violence, despite intense police militarization against protestors.

This may all be theoretical to commentators, but it’s very real to the marginalized folks living in the United States who face discrimination, violence, imprisonment, and deportation.

Furthermore, denying bigots the right to endanger marginalized folks a platform is by no means censorship. Bigots already have endless platforms through which to spew their hatred. Though “safe spaces” are an easy target for critics of campus progressivism, bigots have a safe space in society. Even if they receive backlash for their words, the media will always come to their defense with the “free speech” argument, no matter how many marginalized folks are endangered by “free speech.” And with Donald Trump, the epitome of the white backlash to marginalized folks simply wanting white folks to stop being racist, in the Oval Office, this problem has been normalized to a degree we’ve never seen before in modern American society.

So maybe before you jump to defend the right of neo-Nazis to speak at college campuses, refocus the discussion on the people whose rights are actually at stake here: the marginalized. Yes, bigots deserve to be able to spew their bigotry, but it is our right to reject their bigotry, including by preventing them from using our platforms to further hurt the most vulnerable in our society.

Free speech isn’t free when marginalized folks have to pay the price.

Hiring Bret Stephens is not the diversity the NYTimes needs

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Recently, the New York Times chose to hire the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens in order to pop the much-maligned “liberal bubble” and expand the viewpoints platformed by the Times. But adding a “well-educated,” cisgender, conservative, white man who hates Muslims and black folks, denies climate change and the epidemic of campus rape, and dismissed the humanity of Palestinians to the editorial team actually worsens the Times’ dire diversity problem.

The editorial page of the Times is easily its worst section. Though the Times claims to be a solution to the overhyped problem of “fake news,” New York Times editorials are largely lazy opinion pieces entirely devoid of facts or reality-based analysis. For example, the Times frequently gives a platform to anti-transgender bigots. Media Matters for America documented this specific phenomenon in 2015, but it has only gotten worse since anti-trans legislation sparked a national discussion of transness. The problem has gotten worse since the publication of that 2015 article, with the Times publishing a dangerous piece by cisgender woman Judith Shulevitz, who framed the debate on trans folks using the correct gendered facilities as a “clash of values — gender inclusiveness versus bodily privacy.” She continued to invalidate the humanity of trans folks, as the Times seemingly welcomes cis folks to do. While they have allowed a few trans writers onto the op-ed page, the Times has made it clear that it prefers to amplify the voices of cis writers who believe that transness is a discussion topic rather than a marginalized identity that they are further marginalizing.

Of course, the Times’ embracement of bigotry is not limited to anti-transness. The Times welcomes attacks on all marginalized identities, and it goes beyond just the editorial pages. Anti-blackness can be found in profile pieces, such as Alessandra Stanley’s “Wrought in Their Creator’s Image: Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’s Latest Tough Heroine” and David Brooks’ coverage of Colin Kaepernick-inspired protests of racism.

The problem is fundamentally rooted in the misguided “unbiased” approach to journalism. A lack of bias apparently means a refusal to call out bigotry as such. This leads to ridiculous coverage where, for example, the white nationalism of Steve King is described as something “perceived by many,” turning dangerous racist statements into a matter of perception.

And yes, there are good columnists of marginalized identities, such as Charles Blow, but the Times is still overwhelmingly white, cisgender, straight, and male. Of course, it’s not limited to this one publication – the American Society of Newspaper Editors found last year that minority journalists make up just 17% of newsrooms and 13% of supervisors.

The big diversity issue in the news is not that there is a “liberal bubble,” but that there is a white, cisgender, straight, male bubble. There is no bubble for marginalized folks in America. No matter what, no matter where we are, we have ignorance and bigotry. While “liberal” institutions endlessly praise themselves for being accepting and welcoming to all, their trivialization of marginalized identity by opening themselves up to “opinions” from “both sides” makes even supposedly progressive spaces unsafe for marginalized folks. Sorry, but we don’t need to give a platform to “both sides” when one side believes that transgender identities are invalid and Black Lives Matter is a hate group.

So given the true bubble plaguing the media, it actually makes a whole lot of sense why the New York Times views a perceived lack of conservatism as a bigger problem than the lack of trans writers to fight against the abundance of transphobia elevated by the media. Therefore, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that a conservative, cisgender, white man was the Times’ answer to the non-existent “liberal bubble” problem.

Stephens represents one of the Times’ strongest efforts to demean women and minorities. His ignorance and bigotry have been covered in detail by writers such as The Intercept’s Zaid Jilani, Climate Progress’ Joe Romm, Slate’s Osita Nwanevu, FAIR’s Adam Johnson, and Fusion’s Hamilton Nolan, but I’ll give three examples that exemplify the problem. (Trust me, it was hard to choose.)

On the campus rape epidemic: “The campus-rape narrative sustains liberal fictions of a never-ending war on women.”

On racism: “Institutionalized racism is an imaginary enemy.”

On Black Lives Matter: “The Black Lives Matter movement, ignited by the small fable of Michael Brown’s innocence, has metastasized into the big lie of America, land of the irredeemably racist.”

Unfortunately, the likelihood of the New York Times and other supposedly left-leaning publications realizing their true problem is unlikely. They are stuck in their bubble, and Donald Trump’s presidency has only made them further recede. With the media embracing the false narrative that Trump’s Electoral College victory can be primarily credited to the “white working class,” a narrative that has been debunked time and time again, there is little reason to believe that the media will hold itself accountable for its lack of diversity and fight the actual epidemic of biased and ignorant news written by white, cisgender, heterosexual journalists.

It comes down to this: Bret Stephens is not the solution to the problem. Bret Stephens is the problem.

Democrats want someone new in 2020

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Artwork by Zev Deans

A new survey conducted by The Harris Poll found that the most popular Democratic candidate for 2020 is… “someone new.”

With a 45% plurality, “someone new” topped the other candidates by double digits. The second most popular was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is technically an Independent, with 14%. Eight percent said that Hillary Clinton should be the Democratic candidate in 2020, having already won the popular vote in the 2008 Democratic primaries by 272,809 and the 2016 presidential election by almost 3 million.

If Hillary was out of the running, Bernie jumped four points to 18%. Michelle Obama, who has stated that she will not run for office, came in behind Bernie Sanders in both scenarios, 11% with Hillary, 14% without. Elizabeth Warren received 9% with Hillary and 10% without.

The other candidates listed – Mark Cuban, Oprah Winfrey, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker – all polled between 3 and 4%.

Similar polling commissioned by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who dropped out of the 2016 Democratic primaries after receiving less than 1% of Iowa delegates, found that “not sure” won by a 32% plurality with Iowan Democratic caucus-goers. O’Malley came in second with 18%, then Sen. Booker with 17% and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York with 11%. The other candidates – former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz – only registered in single digits.

These polls indicate that despite speculation from political fanatics, Democratic voters are far from ready to support any particular candidate in 2020. Right now, there isn’t much to be excited about. Bernie Sanders will be 78 by the 2020 election, Michelle Obama strongly dislikes politics, Martin O’Malley made no impression on voters in 2016, and no other speculative candidates seem to garner much enthusiasm, or even recognition. Kamala Harris, a rising star in the eyes of many progressives, is still unknown to a 46% plurality of people in her own state.

But we’re still several years away from 2020. “Someone new” can’t be the only hope we have against Donald Trump and the Republicans. Democrats need to take action now to win back state seats and rebuild the party from the ground up. Trickle-down economic systems don’t work, and neither do trickle-down parties.

7 ways to support transgender folks

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Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

On February 22, the Trump regime officially revoked the Obama administration’s protection guidance for transgender students in federally funded schools. Already, only 14 states have nondiscrimination protections for trans kids in K-12 schools, and with Democrats only in control of the trifecta of both chambers of the state legislature as well as the governorship in a meager six states, trans folks have few powerful allies in the government. It is really up to communities and municipalities to protect trans youth, even if Democrats make meaningful gains in the 2018 midterms. Here are seven ways you can support trans folks right now:

1. Educate yourself

The number one thing here is to understand that this is not just a political battle. This is about the very humanity of transgender Americans. “Debating” our identity trivializes and demeans us. We are not a discussion topic. So rather than reading unscientific, bigoted articles by cisgender folks, use the resources available online. Don’t expect your trans friends, family, and acquaintances to explain their identities to you. Do your own research.

You can start here:

Ultimately, cis folks can never fully understand transness. Only trans folks can. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Trans folks aren’t asking cis folks to know what being trans is like. We’re just asking you to respect our identities and support us.

2. Highlight trans voices

There are countless thinkpieces about trans identity written by cis authors. But even well-intentioned articles, such as cis writer Alyssa Rosenberg’s recent Washington Post piece, ultimately diminish trans folks by centering the conversation on cis voices. While some may argue that transphobic cis folks will only listen to other cis folks, research by the Human Rights Campaign found that people are more likely to support trans rights when they personally know a transgender person. Advocating for trans folks is important, but it is also important not to speak over us. So rather than reducing the conversation on transness and trans rights to cis allies vs. cis transphobes, find trans authors and let them tell their own stories. Then share those stories. Support those voices.

You can start by reading articles by these wonderful trans authors:

You can also follow these trans folks on social media:

3. Educate others

Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to do their research. So it’s your job to educate those that don’t want to be educated. If they are ignorant or bigoted, it’s on you to be their pro-trans resource. Transphobia cannot be fought with passivity. If you encounter transphobia, you must not just call it out, but attempt to explain to others why it is wrong.

You can start educating others on a daily basis by doing something as simple as sharing articles such as the ones I linked to above to your social media. Use your online network to increase trans visibility and amplify our voices.

4. Change your cover and profile pictures

Speaking of social media, another simple action you can take is changing your profile and cover pictures to pro-trans slogans or photographs from pro-trans events. This too can increase trans visibility and bring awareness to the pro-trans activism occurring.

I have compiled a collection of pictures from pro-trans rallies and protests here.

5. Donate

The National Center for Transgender Equality found that one in five transgender people in the United States have experienced homelessness due to anti-trans discrimination. And it only gets worse from there.

For those respondents who had attempted to access homeless shelters, 29% were turned away altogether, 42% were forced to stay in facilities designated for the wrong gender, and others encountered a hostile environment. Fifty-five percent (55%) reported being harassed, 25% were physically assaulted and 22% were sexually assaulted.

Transgender Americans also suffer from wage and employment discrimination. Almost half of those surveyed by the National Center for Transgender Equality reported employment discrimination.

You can support trans folks by not only by donating to pro-trans organizations, but also by donating to individuals funds for trans folks to cover healthcare, housing, and other needs.

Here are some important organizations to donate to:

Buzzfeed also provides a list of “39 Trans Rights Organizations Worldwide That You Can Support In Memory of Leelah Alcorn” here.

6. Volunteer

Along with donating, there are countless organizations, both local and national, that you can volunteer with. Go to the “Get Involved” pages of the organizations linked above to find out how you can help. Also, do research to find local transgender organizations you can support. A simple Google search should help guide you in the right direction.

7. Speak up and show up

Cisgender silence is violence.

Eight transgender people have been murdered this year already, all of them trans women of color. If you do not speak up and show up for trans folks, you are doing nothing to protect us from the violence perpetrated not only by hateful individuals, but by the state.

Because of the risk of violence and discrimination, trans folks are rarely safe to defend themselves verbally or physically. Verbal confrontation can lead to assault. Fighting back assaulters can lead to arrest, which often leads to being held in facilities that do not match one’s gender.

This is not a problem for cis folks. So you must use your safety to defend us at any and every point. This can start with something as simple as always introducing yourself with pronouns. By doing this, you establish a precedent that encourages cis folks not to assume pronouns based on gender expression or stereotypes. If other cis folks do not introduce themselves with pronouns, remind them to. It can be terrifying for trans folks to request that others introduce themselves with pronouns, as it means outing ourselves as “the trans person.” But allies can safely take this action that has a big impact on the way people view gender.

Another specific action allies can take is accompanying trans folks in gendered facilities. Seranine Elliot explains how cis women can assist trans women in using women’s restrooms:

You can also accompany trans folks when they go shopping for clothing or even donating clothing, as it can be unsafe to purchase gendered clothing as a trans person.

In essence, use your cis privilege and safety to fight transphobia at every turn. When you see transphobia, call it out. When you see an opportunity to educate, do so. Take initiative in donating, volunteering, and amplifying trans voices. Learn when to listen and when to speak. Be willing to change and improve. Remember that this is ultimately about our humanity and validity. Defend that. Because for us, it is life or death.

 


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Jordan Valerie Allen

Jordan is a political writer, activist, cinephile, proud queer woman of color, and Mad Max: Fury Road fanatic. She’s cautiously optimistic about the future of humanity.

Protect Trans Folks. It’s Life or Death.

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On February 15, Jojo Striker was found dead in Toledo, OH. Striker, a 23-year-old black transgender woman, was the third trans person to be murdered this year. The other two, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow and Mesha Caldwell, were also women of color.

Police not only misgendered and deadnamed Striker, but also blamed her for her own murder. As is often the case, anti-black and anti-trans violence is dismissed because of mistakes victims may have made in the past.

On February 17, anti-trans liberal comedian Bill Maher had anti-trans alt-right icon Milo Yiannopoulos on his show, Real Time with Bill Maher, giving Yiannopoulos a platform to spew his bigotry to millions of Americans. The two “controversial” white men bonded over their anti-transness, perpetuating the myth that trans women are a threat to cisgender women and girls. Over two million watched live, with countless more watching online later.

On February 22, Donald Trump, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos killed the Obama administration’s guidance protecting trans students in federally funded schools. Most states have no protections for trans folks, meaning that the majority of trans students in the United States now have no legal protections whatsoever.

The same day, Keke Collier, a 24-year-old black trans woman, was murdered in Chicago. She was misgendered by initial reports. She also went by the name Tiara Richmond.

Trans folks, particularly trans women of color, face incredibly high rates of bullying, harassment, homelessness, healthcare and housing discrimination, assault, suicide, and murder. According to Planet Transgender, a trans woman is slain every 29 hours. As trans visibility increases, so do the rates of anti-trans violence as well as anti-trans legislation such as North Carolina’s HB2. And this violence is now being supported not only by Republican state governments, but by the White House.

On March 22, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the case of Gavin Grimm, a trans boy from Virginia who was banned from using the men’s restrooms at his school. During the hearing, the humanity of trans folks will be disputed. This is the case that will determine whether trans students are considered valid by the judicial branch.

My identity and the identities of other trans folks are not up for debate. We are people, we are valid, and our genders are valid. Treating us as discussion topics is demeaning. But this is what the federal government will do for at least the next four years.

The stakes here are life or death. The rates of anti-trans violence will only increase with encouragement from Republicans in control on every level of government. It is up to individuals and communities to protect trans folks from bigotry and discrimination. It is far past time for everyone to stand up for trans folks. This isn’t about just letting us pee. It’s about letting us live.


 

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Jordan Valerie Allen

 

Jordan is a political writer, activist, cinephile, proud queer woman of color, and Mad Max: Fury Road fanatic. She’s cautiously optimistic about the future of humanity.