First of all, let me begin by saying that I don?t think Riley even knows who I am. I sincerely hope not, because if she does it means that she?s seen the tweets I?ve sent her (which were never outright foul or abusive, but were nevertheless negative in nature) and the two articles I wrote about her in mid-2017 (which, if I remember right, only gained a few hundred reads). Her knowing who I am is not the point of this article, however. The point is that when we find ourselves on journeys towards the destination of becoming better human beings, we must own up to our past misdeeds, accept our wrong-doings and ask for forgiveness. We have to own our actions and words in order for us to truly learn from them and grow.
Secondly, I accept that by title alone it might seem that I?m lumping all trans people together as a monolith, or behaving as if Riley J. Dennis is in someway the Queen of all trans communities; that my apology to her should be considered an apology to every trans person ever. Be assured that this is not what I?m doing. This letter can be considered to be in two parts. The first part is owning up to shitty tweets and articles I sent to Riley circa 2017 and unpacking why I did that; the second is how this former behaviour of mine was, in part, a logical conclusion to the internal transphobia I?d allowed to fester in me that I?d like to also seek both forgiveness and redemption for.
So let?s start with Riley.
I came across Riley through right wing YouTube material I was digesting at the time. Bearing, Blaire White et al ? the usual gang (we needn?t say more, as I?m sure you can all imagine what names are on that list). The particular video that they were all raving about was the one in which Riley dissected discrimination and prejudice found in people?s dating preferences. It?s become notorious in right wing circles since, but for those who are unfamiliar with it, here it is below:
I can?t even tell you why I found it so offensive, but I did. Perhaps it was down to internal prejudices I wanted to voice without seeming too overtly bigoted. Perhaps I was just another example of the age-old trope of an arrogant, straight man believing all LGBT people wanted to sleep with him? maybe I?d felt I?d found another way to manifest that odd little fear too, without wanting to look as horrid as I really was. Or maybe I didn?t want to confront the fact that I do have dating preferences and those preferences are probably based on biases I?d constructed over many years. I?m not really sure, though I think it?s likely a mixture of all that, alongside a self-involved and troubling urge to want to feel part of a community, which is what that particular strain of YouTube was offering me at the time.
Regardless of why I found Riley?s words offensive, I seemed to feel it was appropriate to not only take it upon myself to tell her via Twitter about my grievances (like a typically entitled man), but also pen articles about how what she?s saying is terrible and how she must debate someone on the right about this issue. Namely, Blaire White.
Now I want to unpack that bit here. Why did I think it was appropriate to demand a progressive trans person debate a right wing trans person about issues regarding gender, race and dating? The truth might actually be rather dark. I can?t be sure, as I don?t even know what I was thinking half the time (I was on drugs, including prescription opiates given to me for chronic pain, and drinking daily) but it?s almost as if, deep down, I saw trans issues as something to be made a spectacle out of; as if this quite serious and sometimes harrowing discussion about LGBT issues finally unfolding in mainstream discourse, after trans people had been marginalised for decades, was something to be turned in to a WWE-esque event for the internet?s enjoyment. That?s pretty sick, to be honest. I was willing to use both Riley and Blaire for my own amusement, which is probably one of the worst things I?ve done. Something I am deeply ashamed of today. Maybe I?m thinking the worst about myself while I was in a period where I was very much disconnected with reality, but I don?t think so ? I was very much unhinged due to all the drugs and self-loathing back then. I never supported Trump, for example, but I remember getting intoxicated on the night he won in 2016 because ?we might as well party and laugh ourselves in to the abyss?. I saw everything as a joke at the time, no matter how dangerous it was to do so.
But it doesn?t matter ? regardless as to what I was thinking, I still lit up Riley?s Twitter mentions with comments such as ?OMG, if your views are so great, why won?t you debate your opponents?? which was also a pretty shitty thing to do, as almost all her mentions and YouTube comments looked just like that. She may have never seen what I personally typed, but she was still hounded with thousands of comments just like that for weeks on end, and I contributed to it. That makes me a culprit. It makes me complicit.
Not just because of this in particular (there?s a lot more of my shitty shenanigans I?ll be sharing on this blog), but there are times I still struggle to sleep over how I?ve been complicit in this kind of stuff. What an awful person I was.
I?m unsure if Riley will read this. I hope she does, as I want her to know that I?m sorry and that, after many more months of looking in to her content, I?ve actually found a lot of things that have caused me to reflect, think and stop before saying ridiculous things about sensitive issues just for shock value. I?m learning and still in that process of shaking off old prejudices, but her videos have helped me do that in some ways. I don?t agree with Riley on absolutely every issue, there are a handful of things that I even strongly disagree with her on, but she opened me up to a world that I was not exposed to before seeing her content. She?s one of many building blocks that?s rebuilding me as a better and more open person.
I do apologise. But with that apology, I suppose a thanks should couple it. I was a little shit to her but, without her even realising it, she has aided me in shaking off some of my backwards ideas about the world.
Again, sorry and thank you, Riley.
Now, as stated, my attitudes towards Riley was, I think, probably informed by some old ideas I had about the LGBT community. I always thought I was pretty liberal on that front, but I?m going to be honest and say I was liberal by the standards I was accustomed to. I grew up and spent most of my teens around militant Rastafarian men (no, I am not suggesting all Rastafarians are homo/transphobes, but there is a strong undercurrent of religious homophobia and queer intolerance in Rasta communities ? the volume of violent homophobia in reggae and dancehall can attest to that, though I do like to think things are changing now). I made the choice not to outright hate trans people, but that didn?t stop me from being prejudice. ?Hey, I have trans friends? was my mantra, willingly ignorant of the fact that if that same sentence was uttered about an ethnic demographic, I?d probably sound racist.
I loved Jordan Peterson for his opinions on Bill C-16, for example.
?I?ll call them she, he, whatever they want to be called, but like fuck am I using made up pronouns like they,? I?d mumble around my house, a glass of wine in one hand, codeine in the other, pretending what I was saying was just me being a ?shit lord? once I?d sobered up the next day. I?d usually pass out a few hours later, watching crazy ?SJW OWNED? videos on YouTube. Rinse and repeat, though sometimes I?d post my ramblings online like a nutter.
Therefore, I am also complicit in the rising trend of transphobia we see on the internet. For this, I am also sorry. As I learn to unpack and dismantle other prejudices, I am doing so in regards to the spectrum relating to gender as a whole.
I can, will and should do better. I owe it to the trans community to be a better person, own up to my past and dedicate myself to calling out prejudices. This is my promise to any trans person reading. I?m unsure if I am yet rid myself of my past enough to call myself your ally and I?m unsure if you?d want me to be that at all, but you have my word that whatever bad I have done, it stops now.
I have a moral duty to be better.