TransAmerica: Do Not Silence Your Opposition, Make Your Arguments Better Than Theirs
There has been a lot of focus this week on transgender issues, a community of people who are much-maligned and misunderstood in society. In fact, that is why this week I’ve spent so much time covering the different aspects of this story. For all of us who have not dealt with gender identity issues, we must be careful about how we discuss this issue.
One of the most prominent voices on the “anti-trans” side of the argument has been Kevin Williamsom, who has since been castigated in countless responses (including here). However, a recent post in The Washington Post by Tracie Powell takes it a step to far, in my opinion. She writes that a republishing of Williamson’s op-ed in The Chicago Sun-Times “threatened to undo what little progress [TIME] had achieved by putting an elegant trans woman on its cover….”
Ms. Powell’s argument is troubling for two reasons. First, her assertion that Williamson’s factually-dubious and insensitive argument would somehow weaken the arguments of others and second, her implication that had Cox been less “elegant” the message and its impact would be lessened.
To address the second point first, there is no doubt that if Cox were less attractive (especially with respect to the already-troubling American standard of feminine beauty) people would be less interested in what she had to say. However, her looks should forever take a backseat to the substance of her message. In fact, the objectification of trans women is part of the problem in why they are seen as “primarily sex workers” and somehow “asking for” assault.
However what I find most troubling is Ms. Powell’s claim that removing the offending essay was a “good” move. She is correct when she says that the news media is “lazy [for] relying on stereotype to portray people of color…LGBT people,” but censorship is never the answer.
Rather than removing the essay, the Sun-Times should have included an Editor’s Note pointing out where Williamson made factually questionable claims. However retracting the article because a special-interest group doesn’t like what it said is harmful to both the national discourse and the special interest itself.
Silencing “the other side” does not strengthen or validate one’s position, but makes it seem (to the unconvinced) that you have something “to hide.” Williamson’s essay, while indeed insensitive and lacking sources to back up some claims, was actually an foundation from which better arguments could be built. Part of convincing society of the validity of your argument is by refuting asinine opposition, not silencing them.