20 votes

Sci-fi magazine pulls story by trans writer after 'barrage of attacks'

5 comments

  1. [2]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    Very unfortunate. I can definitely understand the frustration based on the title. That meme was (maybe still is?) prevalent and widespread, to the point that I had to address it with my students...

    Very unfortunate.

    I can definitely understand the frustration based on the title. That meme was (maybe still is?) prevalent and widespread, to the point that I had to address it with my students directly, multiple times. I'd hear it in the halls, with kids laughing uproariously at the absurd idea of being an attack helicopter while simultaneously gleefully enjoying the "loophole" of identity disclosure that, they believe, allows them to say whatever they want about themselves and have it go unquestioned.

    The logic of it is easily deflated, of course. I'd ask my students probing, honest questions: "how do you plan to go about living your life to reflect your new identity?" or "what is it about your experiences that has led you to this conclusion?" They didn't ever give real answers, because they couldn't, because none of them are actually attack helicopters. The meme tries to tell us that trans people are trans simply because they say so, when it's actually the reverse: trans people say they're trans because they are. The identity doesn't hinge on the act of disclosure; the disclosure occurs because of the identity. The meme tells us to put the cart before the horse and then identify as the cart. Checkmate, trans people!

    The attack helicopter meme harkened back to the "that's so gay" phrasing that was popular when I was younger. It too was widespread enough that you could hear it almost anywhere, and it too relied on indignity to queer people in order to land. None of us should have to face that indignity, and when it's culturally adopted at large, it stings in a different way from the usual slights. Given this, I can definitely see why some people would respond negatively to the story's presence. Its title feels like yet another jab among thousands of others just like it. It's the same, obvious, played out jab that's somehow still novel and noteworthy to the rest of the world. It's a reminder that when the rest of the world is thinking of people like you, they're doing so only to mock and deride. You're a joke! Don't you get it?! Hilarious.

    With that said, I don't love internet dogpiling, and I don't love the culture of dissolving things into their worst soundbytes. I also don't love drawing conclusions about what I've heard second, third, or nth-hand. So, I found the story.

    I won't link it here, since the author has asked it to be removed, and I want to respect her wishes. I will say that I went in expecting a too on-the-nose attempt at satire or a quick bad riff on the shallow meme. It's far more than either of those: 7700 words, and a full concept. It's composed of thoughtful, compelling writing. It feels exactly like a sci-fi short story, not a trans hitpiece. If we consider it didactic, the lesson it teaches is that even those that identify as attack helicopters have full, complex lives and motivations. The meme makes trans people the butt of the joke by equating them with attack helicopters as a point of absurdity. The story self-seriously deflates the meme by leaning into it and making attack helicopters something that you care about and feel for.

    I got my students to stop using the meme by forcing them to reframe the absurd part of it: identifying as an attack helicopter is absurd but only because no one lives their life as an attack helicopter. This story takes a different tack and asks us to consider that, should someone genuinely live as an attack helicopter, then their life is no less valid or worthy of criticism. Both are attempts to restore dignity to those who the meme attempts to take it from, but both go about it in different ways.

    I can't tell people what to feel or how they should live their lives, but this story didn't strike me as something worth shutting down. Because of suspicions, the author was effectively forcibly outed. She is probably a lot more wary to publish anything else of hers in the future. Outrage shut down an individual attempting to share her unique voice with the world. That's a win only for the people who try to silence and intimidate trans people -- the kind of people who use the attack helicopter meme not for its latent absurdity but because they feel that, underneath is jokey exterior, is a salient and significant truth.

    Unfortunately, I think a lot of the friendly fire we see with queer individuals comes from the fact that so many of us are still in battles for our dignity. The author of the story was painted as an enemy and brought down with force by her own community, and we take note only because of the unfairness that highlights. The hidden, implicit message here is that this kind of thing is already happening and this community is primed for battle, only we don't really hear about the takedowns that are fair game. If the trans community rallies around to take down an actual neo-Nazi waging attacks on them, few people would be wringing their hands over it. I think it's easy for us to criticize people for being overzealous in their vigilance, but I think it's also worth considering why that vigilance exists in the first place. If the first two hundred times you heard the attack helicopter meme it was meant to hurt you, why would you think anything else the next time it comes your way?

    21 votes
    1. HoolaBoola
      Link Parent
      This is an excellent, well detailed response. Thank you. You raised multiple points that hadn't even crossed my mind.

      This is an excellent, well detailed response. Thank you. You raised multiple points that hadn't even crossed my mind.

      3 votes
  2. HoolaBoola
    Link
    My mind immediately thought the barrage of attacks was from transphobes, so I was a bit surprised to learn it was from trans people and allies, mostly (?) Interesting how the story divides people...

    My mind immediately thought the barrage of attacks was from transphobes, so I was a bit surprised to learn it was from trans people and allies, mostly (?)

    Interesting how the story divides people so much.

    9 votes
  3. no_exit
    Link
    The story was great sci-fi horror, especially for a first published piece, and I'm sad the way things turned out. I think Clarke's response was as near perfect as you could hope for, and that Fall...

    The story was great sci-fi horror, especially for a first published piece, and I'm sad the way things turned out. I think Clarke's response was as near perfect as you could hope for, and that Fall has the support she needs and doesn't give up writing.

    6 votes
  4. vegai
    Link
    The article mentions that the author hadn't come out as a trans until the backlash apparently forced them to.

    The article mentions that the author hadn't come out as a trans until the backlash apparently forced them to.

    2 votes