Shakezula Thinks I Have No Business Commenting on Transgender Rights

Angry Teacher Explaining Transgender RightsLast week I wrote, Bill Maher, Donald Trump, and the Existential Threat. It was not about transgender rights. But I did note, “As with same sex marriage, I don’t think [transgender bathroom use] is a particularly big issue.” I added, “When LGBT people are still commonly beaten up and even murdered, these other worthy causes strike me rather more as easy and non-threatening things that the straight community can do until the descriptor LGBT itself because pointless.” But Shakezula and others at Lawyers, Guns & Money thought I was very wrong. In fact, Shakezula even responded that I had “no business commenting” on the subject.

I Wasn’t Writing About Transgender Rights

Remember that my article is not about transgender rights. The article is about the notion that Donald Trump is an existential threat. It argued against the idea that we should all give up our liberal principles because of This Year’s Existential Threat to Truth, Justice, and the American Way. I did come back to the issue of transgender rights. At the end, I wrote, “It is not the time to pretend that we aren’t liberals — to back off on transgender bathroom rights or anything else.” So I think you can see that the problem we have here is not that I don’t support transgender rights, but that I admit to a hierarchy — bathroom rights not being at the top of the list.

Let’s consider same-sex marriage for a moment. Most liberals these days think that it is the very definition of LGB rights. Yes, it is a sign of the progress we have made. But if you want to pick a single issue that galvanized the LGBT rights movement, it was the AIDS epidemic. And yes, the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died of AIDS was far more important than same-sex marriage. That doesn’t mean that I’m unaware that different kinds of prejudice work together. For example: voting rights and lynching.

The truth is that we all prioritize, and I was deeply offended that Shakezula seemed to think that I had no business commenting on transgender rights if I don’t follow his orthodoxy. Not that I think he was commenting on me specifically. There were only 16 click-throughs from that trackback. And I doubt that any of the commenters made it past the second paragraph where they got their outrage fix.

A Comment That Could Start a Conversation

The whole thing started with this comment, which I think explains everything. Commenter JL wrote:

Huh, I followed this link back and while this person thinks Maher is wrong, they also don’t think that bathroom access is a very important issue for trans people compared to harassment and murder. That’s an impressive misunderstanding. Bathroom discrimination for trans people is connected with suicide attempts, excessive absence/dropping out of school, avoiding going out in public [PDF], physical violence, and physical health problems like UTIs and kidney infections.

Now, I’m actually aware of all this. But if I weren’t, I would want to be. So shouldn’t that comment be made here where I would see it? After all, anyone can comment here. It isn’t like at Lawyers, Guns & Money where one must register to comment. But no. The comment wasn’t intended for me. What’s more, it wasn’t intended to increase transgender rights. It was meant to preach to the choir and prove how worthy and liberally pure JL is.

Outrage Is More Important That Engagement

So let’s sum up. I wrote an article encouraging liberals not to abandon their principles just because Donald Trump is running for president. I specifically mentioned not retreating on transgender bathroom rights. And I get a bunch of “holier than thou” liberals who most likely read at best part of my article complaining that I didn’t understand transgender rights. And by extension, the rights of any oppressed group.

Nice going people! Especially you Shakezula! Very liberal. Very open-minded. So very helpful.


If I sound angry, it’s because I am. Over the past few years, I’ve become more and more intolerant of what I see as “middle class liberalism.” One of the commenters wrote, “I feel that anyone who dismisses bathroom access as a ’boutique’ issue or as a not very serious problem should be willing to forgo any use of public bathrooms. For a start.” Well, has this commenter ever tried to find a bathroom in San Francisco as a homeless person? I suspect not. I suspect that very self-righteous commenter has never been homeless and broke. I have. Many of my friends have been. I am not surrounded by the effete class. The “boutique” is Lawyers, Guns & Money, where financially stable people can increase the happiness of their lives by pointing out just how “noble” they are. What a pathetic show of self-righteousness!

39 thoughts on “Shakezula Thinks I Have No Business Commenting on Transgender Rights

  1. Cooked Timber, and to a lesser extent, LGM, used to be places where intelligent people could have a real conversation about things on which they disagree. Especially with LGM, this is no longer the case. LGM: where people with PhD’s pat each other on the back for acting like 8 year-olds; Crooked Timber, where disagreeing with certain people is conclusive evidence you are a misogynist.

    I no longer read LGM and I’ve just about had it up to here with CT. Over the years I’ve learned a lot by reading these blogs, from people that don’t agree with me. But this seems to be a thing of the past. Lamentable. These were places, once, where people could have vitally necessary conversations. And it isn’t just new people that get angry at you for disagreeing.

    • I probably wouldn’t have said anything if Shakezula (who I don’t believe even read the article) had not weighed in. But there is the broader issue that I mentioned in the afterword. It’s not like some of the caricatures conservatives have of liberals are wrong. But the true liberal base is the poor, and we don’t hear much from them. Breaking ceilings is important. But we don’t do nearly enough floor building.

      • You can’t be poor! You’re a white male and all white males are privileged and at least upper-middle class! Just ask people at LGM and CT.

        I have known poverty, I’ve starved due to lack of money. I can’t afford my prescriptions. Some of this is due to bad choices I’ve made, but again, as more helpfully pointed out by some CT people, upper-middle class people suffer less from poor choices.

        I continue at times to wonder if there was any point in giving up salt and pepper.

        As to SF: one thing I really noticed living there was the incredible lack of public seating. At the height of the tech boom it was easy for me to get TA work even as a foreigner – they were hurting for personnel in Berkeley. So I always could go in a café for biological relief. But not everyone can, and not all the homeless and oppressed are sexually unconventional or racial minority.

        • Not to argue — but it frustrates me when people mention “bad choices.” Did you start beating kids up regularly? Putting poison in Tylenol bottles? I’m guessing not.

          I say the same thing, “bad choices,” about myself. Which is why the phrase bothers me. My choices did not involve the greatest foresight. But they weren’t evil. We need to stop letting conservative thinking get into our heads! That’s proving to be really tough for me. You come off as a bit more assertive than I am, you probably don’t internalize the conservative dogma that you deserve hardship to the degree I do.

          • There’s distinctions to be made. I could have made other choices under which I probably could afford prescriptions. But I think I deserve access to my medication, which I do not currently have (partly as a result of chosen actions).

            As John Roemer puts it, people should be free to lose. You should be able to make some mistakes and suffer some bad luck, and not be made destitute thereby.

            • Right. I think of it as “duck hunter gets drunk, shoots shotgun into foot.” Is that unwise behavior? Yes. Is there a case to be made for suspending their hunting license? Yes. Do we deny them medical care for the foot? Absolutely not. And whatever choices you and I made, they weren’t that dumb!

                • James would be a great person to start a commune with. His fundamental decency is out of place in our cynical world. (Although he can put on a cynical front, I don’t really buy it.)

                  Tune in here tomorrow morning at 8:05 for a great article by him. I’m looking forward to it, because I’m going to disagree with him about Marshall McLuhan in the comments!

                  • Nice words — but you know I’d be the Gilligan character who’d accidentally set fire to the commune trying to help warm potatoes for a surprise dinner.

                    • If so, it would be because I was walking by reading a book and ran into you. But the fact that I know you would be willing to share the blame is what would make you so great in our commune!

        • I will admit to privilege. I sunk down very far and I’ve landed reasonably well. I certainly don’t deserve pity — at least at this point in my life when it is probably the best it’s ever been. But I do feel like I live in a world that is very different from many of the people I read. I am generally surrounded by working class people. That means carpenters and plumbers. The people around my age are all “self-employed,” which is just a nice way of saying that we cobble a living together. This, I think, is the biggest issue liberals should care about.

  2. Ah. I saw that thread originally when you linked to the LGM post and wondered if it was about your article. Too bad they didn’t read the whole thing. But, you know, Internet. Anything over 250 words (or 140 keystrokes, really) is tl;dr.

    I wasn’t real familiar with that site; I don’t read a lot of blogs. So I assumed (silly me) that most of the thread commenters were people whose lives had been harmed by transgender discrimination. In that context, getting upset by your early paragraphs would make perfect sense. Sometimes if I read something that angers me, I won’t finish the whole thing.

    I didn’t realize it was a rich-liberal blog. Alas. But, hey: your article gave them some happiness being holier-than-thou. You brought a little more joy into the world! Even if was only to some members of the Insufferable Arrogance Battalion, that’s still a good thing.

    • While I have been sharply critical of LGM, I think it deserves more credit than is indicated in your take-away. I dunno about rich – lots of academics and knowledge professionals, rich by world standards of course. Few genuinely poor people though.

      • Yeah, I’m not familiar with it. But if a blog has no poor people, good as it may be, I’m never going to be familiar with it. I’d feel out of place. Fine that those folks have their place, though!

          • Oh, definitely! I don’t criticize authors for not being poor. Just that, to me, the fun of a blog is you engage with authors and fellow readers, and I’d be uncomfortable being the poorest person in the group. That’s all I meant. Successful young hip liberals are fine and have useful insights. But it’s not my place.

            • I feel out of place for other reasons – I feel that there are a number relatively well-off liberals who say they support leftism, but oppose all actual leftist policies and politicians. It only takes a few charlatans and/or bigots to make the comments section useless and a place of mobbing rather than discussion.

          • “It is possible to live well, even in a castle.”

            I can’t remember who wrote this. I’m thinking it was Dostoevsky, Tolstoy,
            Solzhenitzyn, or another bleak Russian. (If anybody *does* know, please
            tell me; I’ve been using it for years.) Morality is not determined by wealth,
            and being rich is not in itself a crime. (See also, “Money is the root of all

            • Translations make Google far less useful. Most likely, this is your paraphrase of one particular translation of what was originally written. I think you are entitled to claim it as your own. The nature of art is theft and that’s why our IP laws will eventually destroy our culture.

              From now on, I will always say, “As Dono noted, ‘It is possible to live well, even in a castle.'” Although, I think I might like the simpler, “You don’t have to be bastard just because you live in a mansion.”

              Regarding the rest of the thread: Chomsky isn’t that wealthy. His money came about incidentally because of his work and its surprising popularity. I can’t imagine that in the 1960s he was thinking, “You know the way to make a lot money? Start writing books about American imperialism!”

    • I don’t think it’s a rich-liberal blog. And I’m very fond of Erik Loomis. And I think Scott Lemieux is quite good on legal issues. To be fair, the issue is probably what you mentioned in the first paragraph. And let’s face it, this article is just me whining. But there’s a reason I’m a writer. Communication is very important to me. I’m also a good listener. I don’t like being relegated to the unteachable, even though I don’t think that was the issue in this case. As you noted: they read only as far as the video. And interestingly, that’s as much as Shakezula wrote. There’s a lot of that kind of lazy blogging on LGM. Although it doesn’t generally come from either Loomis or Lemieux.

    • Well, it might have been what actually set me off. I’m not Bill Maher. But I was also protecting myself. I think the reason online fights are so bad is that people have no idea about who they are actually talking to. I’m not some snob for whom minority suffering is a theoretical construct.

  3. It think that during that dark period from about 1980 to 2004, I can understand why Democrats had to pretend that they were simply a variant of conservativism. Conservatives were ascendant, the electorate was still really white, the baby boomers were young and paranoid new parents, evangelical Christianity was growing and the damage of neoliberalism was not yet apparent to most (especially white, middle class folks). Our politics were conducted in the shadow of Ronald Reagan.

    We are operating in a totally different environment. We don’t necessarily have to go and pick a culture war fight but we shouldn’t run from our social justice bona fides either. The fact that we want to decriminalize cannabis and treat LGBTQ people like human beings and that Black Lives matter to us should be seen as an asset and not a liability.

    This isn’t 1994 any more, thank goddess.

    • The second paragraph was, of course, pretty much the point of my first article.

      I tend to disagree with you in the first paragraph, however. What did all that moving to the right get the Democrats from 1976-1988? And in 1992, a Democrat was going to win. It wasn’t necessary to pick a neoliberal. I understand that Democrats thought they needed to do that. But I don’t think they needed to. And I don’t think the Republicans need to change now. Sure, Trump is a disaster. But the Republicans will win the White House. Maybe not this year and maybe not in 2020. But they’ll win soon enough because politics isn’t rational.

  4. Shakezula fits in with the highly intolerant crowd over at LGM. He takes intolerant lessons from Professor Erik Loomis, one of the most idiotic people on the planet.

    You’re in good company if you’ve been dissed by these guys.

    • He takes intolerant lessons from Professor Erik Loomis, one of the most idiotic people on the planet.

      I was with you and interested in your comment until it came to this statement.

      • So….you agree that Shakezula is intolerant, but Loomis is not? That about it?

        I’d like to remind you that they both hold pretty much the same narrow views. That’s why Loomis allows him to post there. This is the same Loomis that calls for people’s “head on a pike”.
        With this whole crowd, it’s their way or the highway. You will find no dissenting viewpoints on LGM. Ony “yes men”.

        • *looks at the last post on LGM*

          Well this person’s response was full of shit. I need go get a hose.

          • I guess JenBob is a well know troll, Is a Troll a Troll? He (apparently) also uses sock puppets. If there are further problems, I will ban him and then any other versions of him. However, I don’t mind anyone who behaves. That’s a hint in case anyone is listening.

            • Hmmmm…

              I haven’s seen anyone refute the point made that LGM is an intolerant echo chamber and that only the “approved” viewpoints are allowed.

              While no one likes people who shout, disrupt and cause trouble, it’s disturbing that as nice and as reasoned as I’ve made my points in posts here, anyone would consider that trollish.

              I’m guessing that you, also, want only the “approved” viewpoint. I can’t always guarantee that so if that is the case, then let everyone know up front.

              • You left one cryptic comment. You weren’t inviting a conversation, you were ending it. I thought it interesting that one sentence (supported by considerable research) would stop you dead and make me lose you. Of course, I don’t know why you had that reaction, because you didn’t say. For all I know, you prefer British spelling.

                Oh, and then there was the comment about how I need a job or something. What was with that? If it was meant to be a joke, it was hard to tell. And it is best to become known before making such jokes because they are so easily misunderstood. So if people mistook you for a troll, well, it’s hardly surprising.

                On the other point, I didn’t think we were having an argument about LGM. I don’t read comments on LGM; I hardly read articles on it. I like Loomis because I’m interested in his ideas about labor politics. I’m not interested in your LGM ax grinding. If you want to do that, buy and have at it. I’m sure it would be popular.

                The real problem were having is that I don’t see that you’ve added much to any conversation here. If you have a point to make, make it. Your comments seem like a guy on the edge of a conversation, unwilling to do anything but imply that he knows better than all those jerks who are actually talking.

            • By the By, I have no other handles. There are no “sock puppets”. I do not troll.

              I wish to discuss. I’m willing to make reasoned arguments. I hope you are too.

              • Prove it by engaging.

                I haven’t been impressed thus far. This isn’t because I disagree with you. This is because you really haven’t said anything other than that LGM is not a nice environment. Okay. This article was written over 2 weeks ago. Lots of other things have been published since. Your two other comments have been cryptic at best. And I note that you didn’t follow up on them when I asked for clarification. Not a good sign.

                I’m waiting for those reasoned arguments. You already have the articles to comment on.

                • 1) I was unaware at first that you were the blogger. It appeared that you were an unemployed ranter. Sorry

                  2) I’m not here to impress anyone.

                  3) If you want more evidence of what I said, go there and see for yourself. It’s not my job to enlighten you on things you can research yourself.

                  Thanks for the note, though

                  • 1. I am the blogger, but do you think this is my job?! I’m the editor of a real (tech) website. This is a hobby. But what if I weren’t? Do you really think that’s the way to talk to someone? That is seriously messed up schoolyard bully BS.

                    3. I don’t know how you could miss it, but I don’t really care. My article was about a very specific incident. And it was mostly me whining. LGM means very little in the grand scheme of things. It isn’t even very popular. (Not that I wouldn’t be thrilled to have its audience!) What is the big deal? You think the people are more open-minded at Breitbart? Why don’t you go look for a website that would be more open to you? Although I must say, given #1 above, you probably bring this on yourself.

                    • Hi Frank,

                      I was under the impression that all topics were up. However, I’ve only seen criticism of one political candidate and that’s disappointing. What I’m looking for is a forum that is interested in discussing both candidates.

                      Your website is yours. You pay for it and you can say and do pretty much anything you want. MY assumption of neutrality and interest in all current events is my mistake, not yours.

                    • Again: you don’t follow. I’m not interested in your personal vendetta against LGM. You can write whatever you like. However, given that this is a personal blog, and I try to respond to all comments, you are wasting my time with trivia.

        • I don’t remember what I wrote. I hope that I didn’t write that Shakezula is intolerant. My point was that he was being so in that case. Although I was making a broader point about what I see as a certain strain of liberalism. I don’t read LGM all that much, mostly because Loomis is the only one around there who seems much interested in workers. I’m not against provocative rhetoric — on a blog anyway.

          But I got into this over Matt Bruenig. People who followed him on Twitter found him quite unacceptable. I didn’t follow him on Twitter. I don’t look to Twitter for serious discussion. But Bruenig’s writing on his own blog and at Demos was excellent. The question is: why was Bruenig’s blog hardly more popular than mine while he was hugely popular on Twitter? I don’t see this as being a Bruenig problem; I see it as being a humanity problem.

          If Loomis is offensive other places, fine. That doesn’t take away from the fact that he is a good thinker with much to teach on an issue that is ill covered.

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