The Coffee That Forever Burnt the World
There is content warning for self harm and some other heavy topics. That said, I’m a child of the 90s and as I grew up I recall hearing about the frivolous McDonalds lawsuit around an old lady burning herself on the coffee. I think most people in their mid twenties or older probably have heard about this case. She was driving her car, had coffee in-between her legs, and suffered superficial burns after accidently spelling it. She then became rich by suing McDonalds. It was just another clear example of people abusing the legal systems and trying to cheat hard working mega corporations out of their rightfully earned money.
So, how could this possibly happen? How could our legal system fail in such a spectacular way? Well, the interesting thing is it didn’t. The facts of the case were distorted to the point the only real thing people knew were: coffee, lawsuit, money. They didn’t know the 79 year old, Stella Liebeck, had repeatedly asked McDonalds to help pay for her hospitals bills. That she only sued after the company adamantly refused to pay out more than 800 dollars for medical bills. That she only actually sued for the hospital costs of approximately $20,000, that the coffee itself was dangerous and could cause serious burns in just a few seconds of exposure, how she needed skin grafts, and how callous McDonalds was to the suffering of those who were burned. The majority of the compensation was awarded as punitive damages to send a message to McDonalds that they couldn’t ignore the 700 burn complaints they had received.
The report above features a number of interesting perspectives and lines around the topic and I really recommend actually watching it. The case of Liebeck v. McDonalds would apparently be used as a litmus test to see of potential jurors would respond to facts. Which is a very important test to screen out bad jurors.
In the report, John Llewellyn said, “Once everyone has decided what’s true about something, and the media becomes an echo chamber for that, then how do you deal with the fact they may be wrong?”
This story and the wrong versions of the narrative were spread to major national news outlet and late night talk shows. You had Jay Leno cracking wise about it to millions of people. This meant that the majority of people who heard the story, heard a very specific narrative that this woman was driving a car while it happened. Rarely did the story mention anything about the severe burns or skin grafts. And since so many people heard this, they were anchored into the narrative as part of a cognitive bias.
Anchoring is a very strong bias that occurs where you favor the first piece of information relevant to something as the baseline. If you see a shirt for sale for fifty dollars, than see a shirt for sale for 20 dollars, you’ll think that shirt is an absolute steal. If you see a shirt for 20 dollars, than see one for fifty, you’ll think it’s overpriced. If you think a woman was recklessly driving around with lava hot coffee, you’re going to be resistant to thinking the lawsuit had any real merit. People are predisposed to thinking the established actual facts of the case are this lady was probably do 90 miles an hour, Tokyo drifting her way to Bingo, before intentionally pouring it all over herself as a wicked scam to cheat poor Micky D’s out of money.
It isn’t just an anchoring bias though, it is also a repetition bias. Imagine this time you saw a cake being sold for ten dollars. Then a few months later you saw another cake being sold for ten dollars. Then you saw a cake being sold for fifty dollars and you’d wonder why it was so expensive. You have created a pattern in your brain that has normalized ten dollar cake. But maybe you lived next to a real bakery and the only cake that you’ve seen in your life is fifty dollars minimum. You’d think that’s just what cake costs. That’s an objective fact of your cake reality. And you see a cake being sold for ten dollars, you’d wonder what sawdust they used to make it. When we aren’t a baker and don’t know what goes into the quality of cake or the ingredients, the patterns we recognize or the logic we apply to the situation is likely going to be flawed. And it’s very difficult for us to really understand how many assumptions we have aren’t actually correct at their base, because in a cognitive sense we are just a thousand superstitions in a trench coat.
A lot of folks grew up hearing that we only use 10% of our brain. In fact there was an entire fucking moving about it long after we knew that wasn’t a thing.
“Not everything that we believe is true. For example, according to a recent survey of teachers in Great Britain and The Netherlands, 48 percent and 46 percent, respectively, falsely believed that people only use ten percent of their brains (Dekker et al. 2012; see also van Dijk and Lane 2020). Problematically, as a result of this false belief, some people also have the misperception that “a little brain damage” is unimportant (Guilmette and Paglia 2004).” (Link)
That survey above isn’t just like random people on the street. It is people with degrees in education who don’t know very basic things about how the brain works. Educators who may tell children they’re only using 10% of their brain and if they worked really hard they will have so much unlimited potential. They could be LUCY and have super powers. This is a real problem. And if even teachers can believe this, imagine how many false believes people can have about other topics? The false information around the McDonalds Coffee Lawsuit created a movement of Tort Reform that chilled many future lawsuits around injury. And the impact of the trail can’t even be felt anymore. We’ve just become okay with a few hundred people out of millions experiencing severe burns in the name of the economy. Which was important emotional training to prepare us for about a million people literally dying for the economy during the pandemic in America. The Capitalisms trolley just goes down whatever is the most profitable track, it fundamentally does not care about the bodies below it. Only snowflakes do.
The thing is regardless if something is true, if we keep hearing it over and over again than we are biased into thinking it is. The first thing we hear often becomes the framework for how we understand issues. When that first framework is continually repeated, then it becomes extremely difficult to change your mind. Even if airtight, comprehensive new data comes up that completely contradicts what you know, you’ll assume the information must be wrong. The study above talks about the illusionary truth effect and the correlation we typically have to frequency of hearing information and the truthiness of that information. Interestingly, lot of conservatives felt that the Colbert Report wasn’t satire and the entire show made fun of this premise of truthiness. Another example of this could be thinking that Vitamin C prevents colds. (It doesn’t.) All of these biases go together to make people very susceptible to things like fake news or propaganda. I couldn’t find it, but I recall a story about a lawyer who had to watch over a hundred hours of Alex Jones’ material for a case and talked about the pull of starting to believe the things Jones was saying. Because he just kept hearing the same talking points, presented as fact, over and over again.
And this is all just real. Like nobody in science who actually looks at these topics would disagrees with anything here. This isn’t my woke hot take. We obviously don’t know the objective truth of the world, but in psychology we have strong indicators of our behavioral patterns and how bias impacts our perception. As it turns out we are all extremely susceptible and cognitively compromised beings, even people with a lot of education. And tragically this information is often used to try to denounce every scientific or medical organization, because it’s actually everyone else who is biased and misinformed. Wake up Sheeple, the world is flat and I can prove it.
And the interesting thing is science can be marred in extreme bias because of the economic drive to incentivizes research that proves things rather than disproves them and motivated reasoning where you make studies expecting to find certain outcomes. Also groundbreaking new ideas that are true can be thrown out because of a loyalty to old data:
“Researchers’ preference for their own theories can lead them to reject ideas that conflict with their understanding of the world, sometimes slowing down the pace of scientific advancements. The now-renowned geneticist Barbara McClintock, for example, was mocked for her 1948 discovery that DNA sequences could change locations on the chromosome (see also Keller, 1983). She described the reaction of her fellow scientists as “puzzlement, even hostility” (McClintock, 1987). Eventually, other scientists supported her conclusion, and she won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1983, the first woman to win it solo.” (link)
Following the links I’ve provided on the bias within science, you will see that while bias does exist, the field is self-correcting. The problem is it can take a very long time to self-correct and it’s very possible new understandings or ideas that were rejected and never explored again are now lost truth. It is important to take science with a level of skepticism, but not to throw out the baby with the bath water.
“We think expertise is this very exclusionary idea, which it is, because it’s supposed to be: Not everybody gets a vote on how to fly the plane,” said Nichols, who wrote about the trend in a 2017 book, “The Death of Expertise.” In the pandemic, “This rejection of science and of expertise [has] become [a] demonstration of political loyalty. That’s the part I didn’t expect — that there would be an entire political movement, led by the president of the United States, to basically disavow science.” (Link)
And you can definitely see that not just the idea of science but any kind of regulation on knowledge or show of expertise is just booed at sometimes. We had Gary Johnson, in a now famous clip, talking about how maybe driver licenses might be a cool thing to impose when we give someone a two ton metal bullet that can travel a hundred miles an hour.
The thing is we can overcome or more accurately do our best to limit bias so long as we’re significantly experienced, educated, and work against those biases to the best of our ability. The articles I shared above about how bias exists within science also looks at models to limit that bias. They are working on making sure it is less prevalent within the field and within data by recognizing its own weakness. Science is far from perfect, but it’s even further from ignorant or basely claims or unsubstantiated opinion or feelings. Science is also getting better and better at eliminating bias.
We can be aware that we are susceptible to anchoring information or that we can’t just trust things we hear over and over. We can do our best to be impartial when looking at new research and try to stop ourselves from coming to conclusions immediately about subjects we don’t know much about. The thing is most people don’t really have these tools or examine information with this kind of critical lens. Most people don’t have the time to have an informed opinion about every little thing. And most people don’t even know the first thing about understanding their own bias or working on reducing it.
When anti-science claims are put out there, like anti-vaccination stuff, it tries to present outlier evidence or experts as holding equal weight to the scientific community at large. It will present this one doctor or few doctors who support the non-sense as unquestionably accurate and unquestionably believe mainstream science is flawed, biased, and wrong. People will sometimes try to defer and suggestions there is a reasonable disagreement when their information is at best a few pieces of driftwood held together by their grit, hopes, and dreams and their scientific opposition is a cruise ship of tens of thousands of scientists and researchers.
To demonstrate this, imagine you told me the Chicago Bears was the best fucking team ever. I’m going to just believe you and operate with that information because it doesn’t really matter to me. I know nothing about football and I had to google the team to even know it was a football team. I actually thought it was baseball! Ha ha. Actually, I once saw a guy give fifteen minute presentation on how Atlantis was real and where you could find it. I was walking home with some friends and just said, ‘You know, I’m going to believe him. I’m never going to do anything with this information, I’m not going to have it change anything about my behavior or other thoughts in my life, but fuck it, Atlantis is in that desert area somewhere in North Africa. It doesn’t matter, sure, they convinced me.”
But let’s say I just keep hearing over and over that the Bears are great. That’s all I hear. Then someone tells me the Dallas Cowboys are actually the best and the Bears suck. I’d be like, what the fuck are you talking about? Bears for life, asshole!? And I think that’s kind of just how sports works? But maybe you could look at statistics, win history, players, current players, performance, or whatever. There is math in sports, all games can be reduced to numbers, and you can define the objectively best team — probably. Maybe not the current one, but any past season you can look at the winning champion or the most touchdowns or longest pass and figure it out. I don’t need to care and maybe my only contribution is just that I like to say the Bears rule and feel like it’s my team. And that doesn’t super matter in the grand scheme of life. My feelings on the Bears isn’t going to impact any player on that team or sports in general. You can like whatever team you want, cheer them on, and deceive yourself into thinking they got a chance when really they’re the Bears. But what if it isn’t the Bears. What if my family told me the earth was flat for 20 years. What if they told me LGBTQ+ people were wrong or disgusting or awful for twenty years. What if I was told racism was over for the first twenty years of my life or that actually the world was racist to white people? What would I believe then and how would I react to you telling me I was wrong?
So, now that we understand how this works, we can understand something about the transgender community. Yup, this was about trans people all along! Get rekt and learn about how your opinions on trans people are the metaphorical equivalent to believing the Bears are a good team. Wait, okay, are they a good team? I’m going to look this up real quick.
Anyways, now that we can understand that most people have no fucking idea what they’re talking about when it comes to a given subject. A lot of what we believe is just things we’ve heard over and over and over again. And when we see public discourse of trans people we hear things like biological men, keeping women and children safe, biological men dominating women’s sports, irreversibly damaging young girls and children, or trans people being angry, mentally ill, or delusional. We hear about the trans community being toxic and canceling everyone who disagree with them or being this all powerful movement taking away everyone’s guns and force feeding estrogen to alpha males to make an ever growing femboy army riding stuffed sharks and powered by Gridlock. And while I’m being a little sensational here, I’m sure if anyone ever read this, some folks would think, ‘yeah, but some of those things are actually facts’.
Jay Leno told a joke about the old lady in the McDonalds Coffee Lawsuit to about 4 million people and anchored their view about how ridiculous that old lady was. Who’s talking about trans people and what’s their audience like today?
If I wanted to be cheeky, I could pull up dozens of articles or times when Carl Tuckerson brought up fake news around transgender people. I don’t think I have to put effort into showing how anti-trans this guy is right? I think we can effortlessly agree on that even if you’re like a literal trans hating nazi (I hope you aren’t). Every single anti-trans talking point you can think about has been talked about by him and repeated over and over and over again.
GLAAD has a decent and brief look at this. But Tuck Carlerson has an audience of several million people from all political demographics according to the article in the picture above. Many of these people may not have ever interacted with the trans community. Many of these people may not care that much, like I don’t care about football, and just take the frequency of what he says as the truth. You may see people who are called experts on the show to reinforce this notions that his talking points are just fact. That they aren’t based in feeling or hostility or hate, but just good old fashion science. And because most people don’t have a background in what the actual science or medical community say. So people get the impression its fair, it’s balanced and it isn’t hostility. That it isn’t direct misinformation or hate. They’ll think they’re on the science cruise ship and not the rickety raft barely afloat next to it.
And whenever they hear something that goes against the talking points you hear on the show, they’ll reject them out of hand. This is because they are primed to believe anything different is just woke bullshit at one end or a massive conspiracy on the other. But Tucker Carlson isn’t a lone voice in the world of entertainment and media. And it isn’t a rickety raft, it’s a fleet of sea pirates that are rampaging the science ship and lighting it on fucking fire.
Dave Chapelle’s “The Closer” has 399 million minutes of viewership. I think it’s safe to say tens of millions of people have seen it. Maybe even a hundred million. In this special Dave calls gender a fact, he calls himself team TERF, and gives the impression trans people are just drag queens that do it longer. I did a comprehensive breakdown of this special and showed that most of his jokes weren’t getting laughs, they were getting cheers. It wasn’t that the comedy around trans people was offensively subversive or compelling, it was just what people wanted to hear. It wasn’t brave, it was shitting on trans people or the LGBTQ+ community in general to an audience who wanted to hear exactly that. More on all of this in a little bit! (But even more in that link I shared about the comprehensive breakdown).
We also have Joe Rogan who has an audience of ten million people per episode and just presents extremely biased information that often has no basis. It’s almost like a bunch of cis dudes are just saying whatever they want with no accountability, consequence, or care. Anyways, this represents millions of more people who don’t probably care that much about trans issues, who are getting their positions anchored through the misinformed opinions of someone who also probably doesn’t care that much. Like if you follow almost any topic on trans people there is going to be a person who says, ‘Why the fuck are we talking about this community so much, given how small they are?” This a comment you’ll find in any inclusive LGBTQ+ posts or trans inclusive posts. Yet you don’t see those same questions whenever major media stars shit on trans people. I’ve never seen any movement in conservative circles to ask Tucker to talk about trans people less. So when the conversation is about acceptance then the common message is ‘wow who cares’. When the conversation is scrutiny or hostility then the message is, ‘very interesting, do go on in great detail, love this.”
So, at this point, maybe you’ve been following Tucker Carlson, Dave Chapelle, and Joe Rogan and have a pretty compelling narrative that trans people suck and maybe are going to be the collapse of society. Big scary narratives from a demographic that has so little power we see over 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills a year. Trans people are like the woman who spilled coffee on herself, where this community that has been harmed is portrayed as the real villain somehow. It doesn’t stop there though and doesn’t stop with just them.
We have Rowling with 15 million twitter followers who is constantly antagonistic to the transgender community and gives people the impression that trans rights is the evisceration of cis women’s rights. Her audience is very different than those three boys I just mentioned. I can’t say what the overlap is but you’re likely getting tens of millions of Americans seeing predominantly anti-trans talking points. Maybe 50 million, maybe 100 million? I don’t know if the numbers get that high, but it wouldn’t exactly be surprising if they did. One thing everyone seems to be able to agree on is let’s shit on the trans community, then pretend we’re the victims. That’s been a real fun time.
Rowling has shared she gets hundreds of threats from trans activists to her millions of followers who will tokenize and believe every trans individual is responsible. Can you believe what the trans community just did to Rowling!? She probably has no idea if the accounts are actually trans people are trolls. However, it will be the trans community who takes blame for this harassment, not the individuals who sent it. So, the message is that the trans community is violent, hostile, and unreasonable because of the actions of a few people. A guy rushed Chapelle on stage, ended up getting beaten so bad his arms were broke and Chapelle joked was a trans man. A recent Texas school shooter was basely accused of being a random trans women online and this rumor made it to legislators resharing it and leading to that innocent person being harassed. And while I’m not condoning death threats or rushing someone on stage or threatening people, it really feels like a whole lot of people want to kills us or get us killed. There has been a recent trend of trying to dehumanize LGBTQ+ folks by associating them with groomers. All of this is just repeating the same narratives, over and over and over again to make them seem legit, make them feel true.
I want to give you an example for how absolutely disproportional this is. Imagine 100,000 trans people each got death threats and they shared their experiences to all of their 100 unique followers on twitter. That would reach 10 million people. This means the trauma and abuse of one hundred thousand trans people would not have the impact of one British author. And it sucks it happens, but we again don’t actually know it was all trans people. And when you have a global community of millions of trans people, you will have bad actors. You cannot expect a demographic, any demographic, to have nothing but perfect behavior. And so often you’ll get these rare stories of a trans person being a criminal or being violent or getting upset in public and that’s used to tokenize the community and shade how people see the entire demographic. People know Rowling represents just herself when she speaks. She’s entitled to complex and nuanced views. The trans community she speaks out against is not. And when she shares a 4000 some word essay about her beef with trans people and also associates that with her experience of sexual assault from a cisgender man, this misdirected association of violence sticks with people. Another way to understand this is if more than half of the threats Rowling got were from cisgender female feminists, does that make all cisgender female feminists violent and hostile? Obviously not.
Rowling is a TERF and follows TERF circles. These groups spend their entire time looking for any story that makes trans people look bad. Every quote that can be taken out of context, every study the supports their position, or author who is on team TERF is given fifteen million microphones through Rowling's audience. These stories serve as proof positive and it is much more likely you’re going to see this side of trans people than get any real complex view of what is to be transgender. Trans people are a diverse demographic of folks from every kind of life, from every background, from every action and desire and ability. And there is no consistently with this demographic except for they were assigned a sex at birth and that doesn’t match who they are. That’s it. And that doesn’t dictate anything about behavior or likelihood for violence or mental health or anything. It flat out does not. And you may want to defend Rowling and say that she makes a line between good and bad trans people, but that really doesn’t matter when she works so hard to stop ALL trans people from having access to equal rights or hormone therapy under the guise of protecting cisgender women and children.
But let’s say you don’t follow entertainment. Your comedy is that time God blessed Sarah and Abraham with a child named Isaac, because they both complained they were too old to have a kid and everyone would laugh at them. Is this joke landing? I had to google bible jokes for this segment. Anyways, you have your bible and you just follow local politics to make sure everyone can share in that bible. But dangit it is just more anti-trans shit! In fact, 4.5 million dollars worth of anti-trans/queer political adds were put out by conservatives. Which is an outrageous number compared to the 0 million dollars put out for positive or inclusive trans/queer political adds by anyone else. Let me write that out, because big numbers can sometimes be lost on people — that’s 0,000,000 dollars that was put into campaign adds aimed to protect or support trans people. A big fucking nothing, that’s right!
And the wild thing about all of these mega celebrities and most conservative politicians talking about how awful trans people are or how dangerous hormone therapy is or any of this non-sense is that their conservative base also talks about it non-stop. They talk about it so much, that they OUT TALK QUEER PEOPLE ON QUEER TOPICS. That’s like legit all queer people talk about too. (jk jk) Do you see the problem here?
Two-Thirds of all conversations around LGBTQ+ topics are happening in right-leaning spaces and are from non-LGBTQ+ people. According to that research 77% of top performing posts on transgender issues are from conservatives. And wouldn’t you know it, it just really isn’t that safe online for queer folks.
So, what’s repeated over and over and over and over again in these spaces? They always call trans women biologically male to make this false association with binary sex. They talk about trans inclusions destroying society in some capacity. They talk about all of the harm that can happen with transition. They talk about how trans women will dominate sports or that low performing men will pretend to be women to take top places. These lines gets repeated ad infinitum until they are just taken as truth in the same way everyone thought that old lady who burned her crotch off was somehow the villain in that story and the truth was it was entirely her fault. And we can actually see just how wrong people are in a Human Rights Campaign Survey.
What’s a difference of opinion really matter here? I don’t know, it is just a simple disagreement between if we should allow someone to be affirmed in their gender identity or do something the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims considers fucking torture. We have so much medical literature on the harms of conversion therapy. We know it impacts trauma, increase suicidality, and can give people PTSD. We know it isn’t effective, it’s harmful, and extremely unethical. But fuck it, let’s listen to Carlson or Rogan or Rowling. They seem like folks who really have trans people’s best interest at heart. They seem like renegades just asking the tough fucking questions and standing up to the dangerous woke pc crowd that’s…um all major medical organizations. Hmm.
But Faye, those whacky kids aren’t saying conversion therapy is good, they’re just saying we should make people go through their natal puberty and teach them to be comfortable in their body. Uh oh, that’s just conversion therapy! Big Whoopsie on that!
But Faye, I’m not like those other people. I listen to 60 minutes, a program that is watched by about ten million people and consider myself a pro-trans advocate and it’s just a fact that kids will likely detransition. Gender is just a fact bro, detransition is just common!! And why would we want to do irreversible damage and surgeries to kids? Except detransitioning isn’t that common and the reason it happens is more commonly because of societal backlash and rejection — more information can be found from the folks who study this kind of thing. Surgery is not happening on kids, puberty blockers are safe and effective for giving kids more time to decide and beats the alternative increase risk in suicide for just ignoring gender dysphoria and banking on it going away on its own and hoping the trauma of it all doesn’t make your kid take their own life. But you know, you can either have nuanced positions based on years of medical research across dozens of different organizations and disciplines or you can take the evil lady robbing McDonalds and Tokyo drifting into a coffee enema approach. The question is how many doctors did you listen to on this subject that didn’t come packaged with a media star you happen to like or just exist on Youtube?
Okay, Faye, I get it. There are two valid sides to this issue. Erasing trans people or letting them live! These are both valid points, okay! I’m sure we can find some compromise where we half include and half exclude trans people or something. Remember Voldemort drinking unicorn blood and like having a half existence? How do we get unicorn blood for trans people for everyone to be happy? We can’t we all just have this kind of reasonable approach to the debate!
But, the real funny “ ha ha” thing is there isn’t two sides to this. Do you care about Yale Law School? Does that like fill you with happy thoughts? Does it sound serious or worthy of respect? Iunno, I have an article from them denouncing the medical directions Alabama and Texas are taking that seeks to ban hormone therapy.
Typical online discourse usually is you google, “Facts that Prove I’m Right”, then you copy and paste that into a comment section and lol as people get offended by the truth. And it’s annoying. I go to healthcare conferences, I read dozens of articles of research, expert opinion, and go to trainings on this subject. And there aren’t a room full of doctors trying to figure out how to make research to support the woke agenda and destroy the nuclear family or Christianity.
There are rooms full of doctors trying to do their best to make sure trans kids survive and can be healthy and happy. There aren’t therapists who get a kid who hates their body and immediately start a conversation about changing genders. Most of therapy for youth is about making sure the youth can adequately express what they’re feeling and get support. That’s it. It’s so insane to think there is a woke agenda proliferating through the medical community to arbitrarily support LGBTQ+ politics in some political grab to depower paternal rights. You have to be so completely disconnected and uneducated and misinformed on so many systems to get there.
So, I hope you’re starting to understand how this all works at this point. We have people with absolutely enormous platforms that are completely dictating public perception and opinion about transgender people and all issues relating to LGBTQ+ topics.
What about famous trans people? Let’s look at how much positive representation is out there. Well, Elliot Page is kind of a new media darling and he has 2 million followers on Twitter. Laverne Cox was on the Cover of the New York Times and has 650,000 followers. Caitlyn Jenner, who has an extremely conservative view and often supports exclusion efforts for trans people? 3.4 Million. A million more people are exposed to Jenner’s content and get to think she represents the entire community. To quote Dave Chapelle, “Yuck.”
Looking up the highest grossing trans films, I got Boys Don’t Cry in 1999 making 20 million dollars in the box office. You tragically have The Danish Girl securing 60 million dollars in box office and getting a tone of things wrong about the historical context and reality of the surgeries. Fucking hell though, I’m just looking this up now and didn’t realize they got the story wrong here. I actually knew about the real case because of the uterus transplant that didn’t work. They don’t do that in the movie, they kill her off with fairly standard gender confirmation surgery and give 60 million dollars with of viewers the impression you’re just going to die from this surgery. They also bumped the years back a bit, because it probably wasn’t believable trans people were around so long ago to general audiences. Sigh. Anyways.
I see 1.5 million and a little over a million subscribers on YouTube for Contra Points and Philosophy Tube respectively. Both of them being trans creators, but not necessarily always covering trans topics. Sense8, by trans creator Lana Wachowski and featuring a trans actress and storyline, was canceled because of small audience. Supergirl has a trans character, but often these trans content creators, influencers, and stars don’t have the same cross platform audience as Tucker or Rowling has. They also almost never talk about trans issues in the same kind of scientific or medical way that becomes misrepresented in right-leaning circles. A lot of trans people talk about personal experience, because most of them aren’t medical experts. A lot of right wing anti-trans folks aren’t either, but since they’re framing their position in a way to prove trans people are bad or not real, they attempt to use science to make the positions seem valid or reasonable.
Well, Contra Points was super right leaning for audience, but that’s a bit of an exception. And worth noting Blaire White who is an extremely conservative trans woman and follows every anti-queer talking point except for queer people should exist, yeah, she has 1 million followers.
There are big trans names and voices, but nothing compared to the anti-trans sediment that we hear in national news or entertainment. And it is pretty rare that you’ll have a person who does follow Tucker Carlson and Rowling and who also watches trans content like I talk about above. Not impossible, but just by the numbers even if every single person following Elliot Page watched Chapelle’s The Closer, there would be tens of millions of people who don’t engage with Elliot at all. And there are folks who aren’t trans who stand up for trans individuals like Stephen King with 7 million followers, who Rowling blocked after fawning over him and having him respond by saying trans women are women. And President Biden does talk about trans rights, but given his approval rating that maybe isn’t a good thing. So, I’m not suggesting this is entirely one sided, but rather that it is extremely lopsided. And I think millions and millions of Americans have been extremely biased into anti-trans views and common talking points.
And not only that, if we look at Blaire White, we can see that her brand is very explicitly anti-trans. A lot of her early content was her just shaming trans women she thought were ugly. she apes all of the common national conservative anti-trans talking points. She hyper-focuses on detransition, how kids shouldn’t transition, on grooming, on how trans women shouldn’t compete in sports, and so on. And conservatives can go to her channel and feel safe to engage with the content, because it’s just their typical brand being fed back to them.
Conservatives also don’t care that much about conventionally attractive trans people who don’t challenge their notions of gender, sex, or nuclear family. Ben Shapiro and other conservatives call Blaire by she/her pronouns regardless of their positions on biological truth that exists for pronouns relating to humans, cars, and boats.
Anyways, since Blaire’s content is that of a trans person, conservative viewers can feel even safer that their opinions aren’t transphobic. Blair becomes a tokenized figure or that one ‘trans’ friend that conservatives can use to justify a fair and balanced position when it is anything but that. They can say they listen to trans people, while getting the exact same content they would from listening to Ben Shapiro or Matt Walsh. And we can actually see this come to a head in a Youtube Debate.
And we see Blaire in this video getting ripped apart by republican conservative Lauren Witzke who tells White that the best thing she could do would be to grow out a beard and tell kids to stop being like her. The commentary from Shark3ozero in this video talks about how this is a reasonable statement to make within an anti-trans mindset that is common to conservative branding. That White is intrinsically showing kids that it’s okay to be transgender and this goes against the goal of every anti-trans argument: trying to stop trans people from existing. While this is dressed up and paraded around in pretend concern over bathrooms, or sports, or medicine — it all amounts to limiting a persons ability to be trans in the world. Blaire White existing as a trans woman, even if she concedes to every anti-trans point put out by anti-trans conservatives…she’s doing it wrong. She can never really play the game or be welcomed in the space beyond existing as a tokenized figure and be used to just further justify exclusion. I really feel for trans people who were conservative or republican before understanding their gender identity and have to still try to navigate those spaces with all of that hostility. And Witzke rejects Blaire and would rather have total exclusion and no trans people in her spaces regardless of what they believed. She shatters this illusion there is respectability or that we can allow people personal freedom. She says the quiet parts out loud and makes what is fundamentally an extremist position and always was, very clear.
But let’s imagine something here. Let’s imagine if tomorrow Blaire renounced all of her positions so far. She made an apology video and said we need to affirm queer youth. What do you think that would do to her branding, her following, and her income or where she got invited to speak? What would happen if tomorrow Tucker made a segment sponsored by Trevor Project about how social acceptance for LGBTQ+ youth reduced suicide? Do you think the audience who follows them would see these as reasonable positions? Play out in your mind what you think would happen here.
Blaire White would be hardcore cancelled by her audience if she did this. It is no longer economically viable for Blaire to be affirming in a way that contradicts conservative media talking points. Her brand, her job, and her messages have to closely align with her market and content. There are rooms for little disagreements here or there, like trans people can exist is one of Blaire’s radical positions and by choosing that position she loses all of the “Lauren Witzkes” in her audience.
But let’s not imagine it as entertainment branding like with many of the big social influencers I’ve talked about. Let’s imagine it’s just you and your five closest friends. Let’s imagine that you all watch and talk about what you heard on Rogan’s show or Tucker’s or even Blaire’s. And let’s say your kid comes out as trans and you do a lot of research and find out the positions you held weren’t the most accurate. That in the big scheme of things your positions weren’t much different than your love of the Bears or belief cake should just cost 10 dollars. They were just fun parts of your identity and superstition that you never had any reason to question before. And now that you know better, what do you do about your five friends who don’t? Who don’t have to care? Who’s kids aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ community and have no personal stake on the bullshit they say over beer and brats?
There is a good chance they might reject you. They might think you were tricked or brainwashed. They might judge you, stop inviting you over, or stop having your kids hang out together. And when a kid comes out to their parent, this is going to be something they think about in the back of their mind. How other people will think about and perceive the parent, if their child is openly gay or trans. And a violent reaction to these youth may be about trying to keep social strata and clout. It may be about protecting their place within their friend group and society based on the branding and opinions they’ve been following.
When we interviewed former cult members regarding the factors that had influenced them to stay in the cultic group, the most frequently cited factors were those that were linked to the group (an inability to question the creeds of the group, regressive and reassuring feelings resulting from being part of the group), and a relationship with other cult members or with the cult leader (family members in the cult, romantic relationships in the cult, a feeling of dependence on the group or the cult leader, or affinities between cult members). (link)
I’m really not saying that if you’re skeptical about LGBTQ+ issues or part of a political party that I think you’re in a cult. The purpose of sharing this information on research from cults is to only illustrate the power dynamics involved in group think. I honestly think that people, regardless of their political affiliation are complex. I’m not going to assume all democrats or republicans or liberal or conservative folks have the same thoughts. I think it’s a mistake to discredit and discount people like that or overly tokenize experiences, communities, or people from the leaders we often see in them. And I think doing this on a big scale in our country has maybe led to a lot of the problems we currently see.
There are folks who are conservative, who are republican, who are faith leaders who fight for LGBTQ+ inclusion. There are people living in Texas who love their transgender child. At the same time, I do think it’s important to look at the patterns of bias that can exist within communities and what those communities typically engage with and how it can be difficult to change your mind if it goes against your community positions. Further there are very real cults that absolutely strip a person of any real identity or agency. Here is an illustrated example or you can check out famed documentarian Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie. Real cults are very scary and the average person isn’t in a cult for liking Alex Jones. They aren’t in a great place, they likely have extreme biased, they’ve likely been condition to believe things that aren’t true, and it’ll take a lot to deprogram them. It’s all cult-like.
Often when we talk about these issues and even if folks think the argument about bias or group think is reasonable and acknowledged, we have another layer of bias brought to the conversation in the form of whataboutism. In this capacity it could be deflection that left leaning or liberal democrats are too affirming or peddle bad or biased science, or will ostracize anyone from their group that disagrees with their thought paradigm. You do have stories of conservatives feeling like they were completely abandoned by liberal family members.
And if Elliot Page started liking and posting everything Donald Trump said, you maybe would get a similar reaction to Rowling publicly decrying TERFs as bad people. It’s this cogitative disconnect that says other things are bad, so your personal bad things don’t matter. And over time it even becomes negative partisanship where your values stop mattering as much as just dunking on the people you hate. Where our last presidential cycle was voting for Biden to piss off republicans and voting for Trump to piss of democrats. And maybe that’s insanely bad for our country and we should kind of stop doing it because we get progressively shittier people very cycle? And when we stop caring about The Bears winning and start just wishing for every other team to loss, we’ve lost our soul. Our Bear’s Soul. Go Bears, proud to support the 32nd best team in the NFL.
So, when I try to educate on LGBTQ+ issues it can be very difficult. Not only am I working against so much misinformation, it isn’t like someone’s cup is already full and anything I add just spills out. It’s like someone is 10 shots of whisky into a drunken night and anything I add will just be tomorrow’s vomit. Even if I’m citing peer reviewed research and medical consensus and the word of experts with dozens of year of experience. Even if we’re looking at making sure the science is sound, not impacted by bias, and will result in better outcomes. Even then, I’m working against the 200 ten dollar cakes someone has already eaten and who will look at my 50 dollar cake and laugh at how silly I am. If you’re on Facebook any big public story featuring trans people will pretty much always have laugh as the first or second most popular reaction. Internet warriors at their finest, making real impact out there.
Very recently, there was a venue in Minneapolis that cancelled Dave Chapelle. It was a few days before I wrote this article. I looked at a comment section for that venue and was met with this beautiful conversation.
And I don’t think you’re ever making a super important point to showcase what some random people are saying online. This stuck out to me, however, because this person keeps talking about the fact of Daphne being bullied by her own community and completing suicide because of it. And this isn’t a fact, it is just Chapelle’s side of the story. Because Chapelle got to tell his story to millions and millions of people.
In my article on Chapelle’s special I talk about how Daphne’s best friend did not agree with the assessment. I talk about the role Chapelle may have had in Daphne’s death. Suicide is a complicated thing and there never is just one cause, but everyone who listen to Chapelle’s special is walking way with the though that the trans community bullied one of their own members to their death, because Daphne happened to support Chapelle and went against her own tribe (his words).
Daphne as a person doesn’t get to exist anymore, because she will never have more impact or presence than the version of Daphne that exists within Chapelle's head and was communicated on stage that night. And what he said was she really sucked at comedy and tens of millions of people will believe that forever. What a friend. The only real positive compliments he gave her were related to bravery for speaking her truth and her liking him and forgiving him of any transphobia. He also said she tried hard and was honest, still stank up every room she was in, but what a trooper! She was a trans woman who laughed at his jokes and that made him see her like a real person.
Daphne existed effectively as a caricature to be Dave’s trans friend and excuse him of any criticism. So the millions on millions of viewers walk away from that special with limited knowledge on the situation that has now just become the facts just like we all knew the facts about the McDonald's lawsuit.
People walk away thinking Chapelle’s this fantastic guy who is supporting Daphne’s family, when according to local sources he didn’t say a word to them after she died. They said he only showed up a month before his special to make the deal and then made a big deal about it on his special. Nobody is going to look that far. They are going to walk away thinking he isn’t transphobic and that reasonable trans people love him, and anyone who doesn’t is a fucking baby. Rowling also talks about her trans friends agreeing with her! So many comments will say if you think Chapelle is transphobic, than you didn’t watch the special, because his special was a very long, elaborate, and well constructed narrative argument for folks to be on his side.
And I did already write about all of this, but I will say that I don’t think Chapelle hates trans people. I do think he was impacted by Daphne’s death. I do think he care about that and processed that to the best of his ability and didn’t necessarily sit down to write a special about how he was the good guy in all of it. I can recognize Chapelle giving the family money is a good thing. I can recognize Rowling has so many great donations to help cis women that I’m not protesting, that I think are great. Bias isn’t choosing to be evil for lols, it is a product of imperfect brains we have that are electric bacon and fat trying to make sense of the world. I legit think that Chapelle in his own way did try to be better.
The problem is that Dave Chapelle gets to define the trans community, because he has that much more audience and power to shape people’s perception. So when he says gender is a fact, when he points to trans people and says yuck, when he implies being queer is a cakewalk compared to his experiences with blackness — his audience takes that at completely face value.
A lot of insult or edgy comments like to take a piss on LGBTQ+ individuals and focus on this idea that the community is whiny or entitled and that’s such a joke. The community is whatever survived an aids pandemic that killed over a million fucking people, many of them black and brown. The community we have now is whatever survived their childhood of being beaten in their home, running away, trafficked, bullied at school, and self harm.
When Chapelle says his special was actually about whiteness more than queerness, people believe that and defend him to the death about it. Dave has more fans, reach, and power than pretty much every trans person in America combined. Yet, he sees being challenged by this community and the people that care about them as a credible threat? He sees being criticized and asked to do better as oppression? I don’t think he’s especially transphobic, I think he has a lot of the same biases a lot of folks have right now.
He recently released a new special on Netflix called, “What’s in a Name?” It was him revisiting his old school the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. The year before he visited the school and got booed by students there who were upset about his “The Closer” special being transphobic. He talks about himself being a once in a generation talent. He calls “The Closer” a masterpiece that nobody will top in this generation. He explains that it was watched by pretty much everyone. That criticism towards it didn’t acknowledge the art — which I did, but you know, I command an audience of at most a few dozen people and if I’m lucky one squirrel. They live outside my home. I wave at them sometimes.
Dave said that when someone tells him he can’t say something, it becomes his job to say it. He tried to fall back on artistic integrity to justify his material. But it wasn’t the world telling him to stop. It wasn’t white people or the government or anyone who had any real systematic power. It was the actual life of the people his comedy was impacting, who were expressing pain and frustration, who were taking their own life because of hostile social messages. It was people who were hurting who asked him to stop for themselves or their family. And he took that to mean he had to go even further and harder to prove he couldn’t be controlled. He was always in control. He always had control. He always could say anything he fucking wanted to. But the response to, hey this hurts, is “haha fuck you, let’s go full 11.”
The ending of his speech is talking about a man in a dress trying to throw a pie at the Mona Lisa and says it feels like what happened with “The Closer”. He literally says just moments before that you can’t criticize the words he says while taking out the nuance of his artistic expression. And then makes this joke about a situation in which a climate activist, dresses up as an old women, to sneak in a pie to throw at the Mona Lisa. He just makes a fucking cheap ass joke about a man in a dress that removes the nuance of the situation or artistic expression of that climate activist because it narratively sounds like the same anti-trans bullshit jokes he always has. Here is a real joke about all that, hope it isn’t too challenging for you!?
He says the kids booing at him hurt, he says it’s because he feels they’re using the talking points that aren’t their own. And I think he feels that way because he never saw criticism against his work as worthy of any serious consideration. He always viewed it as this uncritical lens from people who just didn’t get it. And fair enough, I think a lot of his career has had people like that. And I suspect he’s probably pretty insulated right now with people who totally agree with and support him. And he may ask them if his comedy was transphobic and they may say no, you’re perfect, and he’s like, ‘yeah I am!”
I think those kids telling him they were hurt made it real to him again, like it was with Daphne. He responded to the kids back then by telling him they couldn’t handle his life and that black people are out there dying. And again he’s not wrong, but LGBTQ+ folks and LGBTQ+ people of color are too. Suicidality, family rejection, homelessness, and so on and it isn’t an either or situation, we’re all struggling. And, of course sixteen-year-olds aren’t going to have the scope or experience to stand up to a masterclass comedian who was forged in the brutal fire of comedy clubs. They aren’t going to represent a degree level understanding of bias, discrimination, and power dynamics or a decades looking at comedy subversion to speak Dave’s language. But to listen to Chapelle, men in dresses are just shitty little people that ruin good things, right? Once in a generation talent, audience of millions upon millions, thanks dude.
Faye, why are you writing so much about Chapelle? He’s not as bad as like Ben Shapiro or Tucker Carlson for trans things? You’ve kind of argued here and there that he isn’t that bad yourself. So, you got a crush or what?
So, I actually wanted to be a comedian when I was a kid. It was like the first thing I imagined I would want to do with my life. I liked making people laugh. I liked setting up jokes and delivering on punchlines and defying expectations. That’s why my writing is often attempting to be funny and serious at the same time. I grew up watching stand-up comedy and wanting to do something like that. I grew up watching Chapelle and following his career. I saw his comedy as being subversive in all of the right ways and meaningful and impactful. And as a white bitch in a midwestern potato field there was education for anti-racism that helped me understand a broader perspective that I didn’t have before.
In Dave’s first Netflix special he makes just some transgender jokes that aren’t great. It’s a small part of the special and it’s whatever and it didn’t ruin the rest of it for me. Okay, sure, haha cheap joke on trans people. But then his next special was a story about all of that and how he thought a trans person had given him a letter asking him to stop. It was later revealed to not be a trans person, just someone who cared about trans people. And what we got was Chapelle just not letting it go. Ever. Not wanting to understand it, but just fight it. He just saw it through a lens of being told what to do, about being oppressed, about it being tied to the same racism he had experience in his life, and dug deeper and deeper into the shit to prove a point about never telling him what to say or do. I don’t know if I need to say this, but trans people aren’t comedy central back in the day. They are not whatever system of control that maybe deeply hurt Chapelle at some point in his life. And while there is so many bad things you can say about white queer people upholding racist structures that I’m on board with and agree with, the messages from Chapelle do nothing to soften the cultural blow back against queer people of color.
He rebuilds his entire brand and career from scratch after leaving the scene at the top of his game. That’s insane to have that much talent. It’s insane that he gets back to the top of the mountain, that he commands the world as a once in a life time genius, and the mark he leaves on the world is packed with a message about black vs queer and trans people suck. How subversive. How brave. What a punch. And that’s what I hate. I hate it as someone who loves comedy and everything it can be. I hate it as someone who knows the harm it will have by spreading this message to way more parents who will slap their kid if they identify as queer because gender is a fact and those kids may not survive their childhood. I hate it because it’s just another cis person defining who the trans community is. Another cis person tokenizing all of the experiences into this unreasonable bogey man throwing pies at works of art. And I hate it because so many people will believe every word as fact and they will support and love this one person above the entirety of the trans community and their families.
Chapelle to his credit doesn’t put his name on the theater. He throws down the gloves and challenges someone to become more famous and if they disagree with Chappelle's comedy than do better. I think that’s probably fair.
But I want to see you do better, Chapelle. Not as like a cheap insult. Carlin was famous for coming up with new material every year and digging deeper and deeper into the human condition. I want Chapelle to spend time with trans women of color, watch Disclosure, and start a phone call with Janet Mock. I want Chapelle to have another special, I want that special to break the house, and I want it to actually be deep and subversive with his trans comedy like all of his other comedy has been so far. Because he is the only person in the world right now that could tell one more ninety minute story and save maybe tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ lives by equipping parents with a better idea about this community. And in this request I am giving him the benefit of the doubt, that he simply doesn’t know this. That he hasn’t interacted with trans women of color who’ve experience poverty, because they are the ones most hurt by his special. Don’t listen to me, below is a video from Kat Blaque that examines the intersection of race and gender. Also it has a pinned comment from Daphne’s best friend as a bonus.
A new special from Chapelle could take all of this supposed infighting and bring it back to oppression we all have and how much we’re all being failed by these systems. He talks about his family in the school being of all sexualities and gender identities and it didn’t even matter because everyone was so weird. He clearly is cool with trans people he knows, but just sees this notion of a monstrous and evil trans community out there trying to get him. And it isn’t real. And when he throws punches or his fans break a persons arms on his stage, it’s not this villainous shadowy trans community that’s hurt, it’s real people trying to live day in and day out.
And a new special like this would absolutely change minds. It would shift culture in a way we haven’t seen, because so many more millions of people will be open to hearing it and listening to it. And, like, I’m not telling him to do this or his next special would be about this white bitch on Medium and I can’t manage the level of death threats that would come with that. So, he doesn’t need to do this. I want to be very very clear that I’m not saying he needs to do this in every way I possibly can. But, hey…Dave…I would love it if you did. Go further, aim higher, and make another masterpiece. I’m not saying don’t joke about trans people, just make the jokes one that don’t encourage trans people to experience harm or invalidate them as humans, but explore how weird it is that all trans women have a stuff sharks and drink grid lock. Stereotype them as coders, frame the struggles of minoritized communities of sexuality, race, and gender against cis white dudes. You could make a joke about getting a good feel about if a state is going to be more racist or more transphobic by how much race play porn or trans porn conservatives watch in it. With your talent and once in a life time level of genius, why wouldn’t you be able to make a special that slaps within these parameter?
I started this whole article on a women who was burned by coffee and how the world reacted. And while it wasn’t great, we see all of those same systems effectively still happening. Where the people with a lot of money and power in society dictate a lot of our perception in it.
Humans are really good at scaling, where if you can understand simple interactions then it’s easier to understand complex ones. You can’t just jump into a bias presentation, you have to connect people to these experiences for them to understand. A productive conversation isn’t just saying, ‘here are the five fallacies in your argument bro’. I can’t just say Chapelle’s material has been harmful and be believed, because there is a dozen of systems of disconnect and bias that stop people from ever really getting there.
What I really want people to take from this article is just how their perception of the trans community is probably really flawed and likely only a caricature at best. A lot of people say if you don’t like Chapelle’s material than don’t watch him? That doesn’t really fly when that material influences tens of millions of people who go on to hurt the trans community. And it sucks that right now the trans community doesn’t get to define itself, it is largely tokenized to the agenda and opinions of people who actually do have big audiences, lots of money, and lots of influence. And get this, they’re the ones telling you there is this massive trans community with all of this power that only they can stand up to! And really…that’s the lie so they can continue to hurt some of the most marginalized people in our country.
In our current world, this misinformation is being used as a political tool to win elections by convincing people trans folks are the problem to what’s happening in your life and fuck, they got a solution for that. This is why people have been accurately looking at the parallels between the Jewish question and the transgender question.
I don’t know if I ever have anyone who reads my work and starts out as being extremely antagonistic towards LGBTQ+ identity, but then reflects and realizes maybe not all their positions were based in the best information. As an equity trainer I don’t judge folks for needing to learn or grow. I started out with every bad view you can imagine as a kid and had to unlearn most of it. And I don’t want to come at this with a condescending lens of being right about everything I say. I usually don’t look at things within a binary of rightness. I look at it within a scale of education and asking if the outcomes we’re getting are what we want. That’s how I look at video games or anime. That’s how I look at everything.
Trevor Project research shows that one affirming adult in an LGBTQ+ individuals life can reduce suicidality by 40%. That’s what we can impact if we spread more positive messages and have better anchors. Even if we have massive celebrities talking shit about LGBTQ+ individuals, if these kids have one person in their life who can see them for who they are, they are nearly twice as likely to survive. You can be that person.
I want a better world for everyone. I want us to work as a community. I want us to have access to shelter and food and mental health and education. And I’m not going to worry about what your party is or what your history is, I’m going to start laying bricks and if you want to join me, I have some cement for you and lets get to work. That’s me. Thanks for reading.