On bullying and being outed

Jan 20 2014 Published by under exhaustion, venting

Hello again. I've missed you guys. But, there are things* happening in Real Life that have stopped me from spouting off here. And yet, I can't stop myself from commenting on events of the past week or two that, for me, demand comment. These events all share an "outing" quality that I think needs to be highlighted.  I will not comment on any of the things that have happened specifically, but I want to talk about how hurtful "outing" is.

Outing someone is bullying. It is spiteful, hateful, and hurtful. It has consequences for the person that is outed - being outed can fuck with your career, your personal life, and your safety. There are reasons that folks are not out. There are good reasons to blog with a pseudonym. This is a topic that comes up over and over. I could spend the rest of the day finding the links for the many people who have written about this in the past. But you can google that shit yourself. There are good reasons to not be "out" about your gender identity, orientation, and about a million other things.

Outing someone doesn't just fuck with the person that is outed. It is a violation of an entire community. When a bully outs someone, it is a display of (real or perceived) control and power. It is a warning to everyone else that they, too, might be outed. It is an affront to a sense of safety in that community. It quiets those of us that may have very good reasons not to be out.

People should be able to define themselves. Full stop. The fact that someone is not out is not their problem. The biases and judgement and power structure of society makes it unsafe to be out. If everyone could trust that they were safe and accepted for who they are, then getting outed wouldn't be an issue. We aren't anywhere close to this. If someone doesn't feel comfortable being out then that is their decision. And I think it is up to all the rest of us - those of us that want the society to be better - to totally support them in this. We have to step up, because they can't. If you talk to someone and you learn they are female, then fucking believe them. Use fucking female pronouns. If someone wants to interact with the community psuedanonymously, then respect that. It's really not hard, I promise.

When someone threatens to out a member of our community, we need to stand up and make it clear that is wrong and it won't be tolerated. There need to be consequences. It needs to be clear that it is wrong and hateful when journalists out a trans* person for fun. Nature needs to hear that when their editors decide to maliciously out someone that they betray the trust of all of us. Everyone has to decide for themselves how they can respond. Maybe you can go on twitter and forcefully push back against the bully. Maybe you cut ties with the bullies, or boycott Nature. Do what you can, how you can. But don't sit by and pretend that nothing is going on. 

Outing someone is stealing control over someone else's life. Stealing their ability to be safe and happy. Telling a story that isn't yours to share. It is the cowardly act of a bully. I know what it is like to be outed. I am, right now, IRL, dealing with threats of being outed, and even having people that I love be outed in some weird fucked up collateral damage scheme. It sucks. It hurts. It's scary. And its fucking wrong. 



22 responses so far

  • pseud says:

    I usually agree with you, and do so in part today. However, in this particular case I will say that I feel that there is a whole other layer that most people seem to miss. Was is very bad to out DI? Yes. Was it out of the blue? no. Have DI made very many attacks on "the outer" last couple of years? yes. Has other ppl marked same person for several years and saw an opportunity to pick up some hate? yes. Has he always used his full name&stated where he works? yes. Have the others? no. etc.

    There has to be a way to have a better way of communicating the outrage than "he must be fired" kind of attitude on twitter. Not to mention to threaten the ppl (like myself) who voiced a little more grayish picture and not wanting to burn him at the stake right away?

    I even had people telling me "there is never two sides to a story, only one" - which I find disturbing to a whole new level. there might not be "two sides saying the same thing" but if there are two people in a fight, there are two reasons why and regardless of the verdict, it is good to hear both sides of the story. Life is seldom as easy as black and white when it comes to human interaction, especially not in science.

    (hence my pseud here since I'm actually very apprehensive/scared right now of signing with my 'real' name since last night got me some pretty nasty DMs and twitts based on "you're not directly with us/DI and against him therefore you must burn too. maybe we should out you too, since you're not with us". Imho that is not really productive and also scary, esp for a female in science writing under pseud like myself)

    • gerty-z says:

      Retaliation is not right. The cowardly asshole perp has been subject to criticism before. I think justifiably so, but that is neither here nor there. Because, in the end, he is a fucking editor at Nature. If he can't handle criticism then that would seem to be a professional shortcoming. His feelings get hurt so he calls someone a bully, which somehow then makes his bullying OK? Um...No.

      • Isabel says:

        "The cowardly asshole perp has been subject to criticism before. "

        But did he even have anything directly to do with the current complaint? He said he didn't.

        agree outing is horrible but hard to be sympathetic with someone who outed my location (among other bullying behaviors some of which were the very reasons we were in conflict) and never apologized.

        The power that bloggers have over commenters, especially regarding the ability to out them, and frequent threats to do so, is never discussed.

        "Maybe you cut ties with the bullies, or boycott Nature... But don't sit by" from the same people who were just lecturing us that it is insensitive to even suggest that people boycott glams?

        • gerty-z says:

          dude. i don't give a single flying fuck whether the current complaint has any merit. it is totally irrelevant. and i will not get into some weird-ass-totally-useless competition about whether you have been more wronged than anyone else.

          • Isabel says:

            Right. mentioning the person being defended did the same thing to someone else when she was in a position of power is weird ass. thanks for illustrating my point.

            And who said it's a competition? never even implied that.

    • atcgphd says:

      Whether or not DI's comments to Gee qualify as verbal "attacks" is irrelevant; this is no justification for outing her. "Two wrongs don't make a right" is a pretty kindergarten-level concept.

      Someone who hasn't taken that lesson on board does not have the tact or discretion to be an editor at one of the two most prestigious journals in all of science.

    • drugmonkey says:

      Have DI made very many attacks on "the outer" last couple of years? yes. Has other ppl marked same person for several years and saw an opportunity to pick up some hate? yes.

      there's this same nonsense being promulgated over at good math and Henry's whining Tweet claimed to be under constant attack that did him psychological damage. WHERE? What has been going on that doesn't fall under 1) SpittleFest, 2)Womanspace and 3) the recent stupid anti-woman letter at Nature?

      The first two events, Henry deserved every bit and more of what he took. This last was a misaimed jibe. true. but given the prior two events, it has justification. and it was really, really tepid shit. I have all kinds of issues on my blog that certain of my fans like to bring up over and over and over. it comes from their view point of me, I happen to think it erroneous, but they believe it. So when they bring it up again, does it sting? not really....it's the same part and parcel of that original stupidity. I don't start screaming about being constantly attacked. ffs.

      • Isabel says:

        Are you talking about me again?:) Whether or not you are, a couple of points:

        as you admit in your comment, when I "attack" you on your blog I am 1) attacking DrugMonkey the intentionally provocative, evil stereotyping, koolaid drinking NIDA scientist/disciple/tool. And I am 2) keeping the anger and hyperbole etc contextual and rarely carrying them off the blog or even onto posts about other topics on the blog.

        If I was doing the same thing using your real name on my popular blog and tweeting obnoxious pointless digs at you using your real name* and I had a whole posse of fans and 1000s twitter followers supporting me perhaps it might sting just a bit, might start to feel like an annoying thorn in your side after a while? Yeah it would still be wrong to take action and all that. But it might sting, I suspect.

        *Someone posted some links to some tweets from DI on Michael Eisen's blog post on the topic that fit this description.

  • Anna says:

    I am hesitant to push back publicly while the outing tweet is still there for everyone to see. It was easy for me to find by going to the outer's profile, and I assume easy for others. How do you weigh calling attention the the wrongdoing vs. protecting against further damage?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    If you were there during SpittleFest, as I was, then you get to have an opinion on whether Gee is a bullying self-involved, privileged sack of shit who has serious issues with women having their own opinions and experiences...or not. If you weren't in that room, you can take your "really a good guy" and "two sides to the story" and fuck right the hell off.

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    The only thing Gee has achieved with his nasty antics is proving unambiguously that he is an unhinged vindictive freak with none of the qualities of discretion and discernment that are required of a journal editor and who should not be anywhere near the professional gatekeeper role he currently occupies.

    • CPP-- You're a big guy in science, can you make a formal complaint? It's safer for you to do so than it would be for a woman, and if enough big white guys speak up, maybe someone at that publishing group will listen and finally get rid of Gee.

      • Henry Gee has been a Nature insider for two-plus decades. Given his impeccable whiteAnglomale credentials, dislodging him will be hard even if the attempt is made by people of the same general configuration. It hardly needs saying that non-whiteAnglomales' voices in such matters will be given as much attention and respect as they traditionally are.

        • FWIW, at spittle fest he did mention not being an impeccable WASP because he's Jewish and, according to him, he has faced discrimination for it.

          • drugmonkey says:

            Yes and from what I can tell from another dispute online (with the turbo atheist types, I think, different group of antagonists) he brings this shit up every time he gets in a tight spot. You seriously have to wonder how much discrimination he's faced over being Jewish versus being an obnoxious baby.

    • atcgphd says:

      Agree. Strongly and wholeheartedly agree.

  • atcgphd says:

    I am appalled at the behavior of Nature Magazine editor Henry Gee. Really, truly appalled. Under no circumstance was it acceptable for him to out Isis. Together with the recent fiasco/publication of a truly offensive letter written by one Lukas Koube, I really question the quality of editorial decisions made at Nature.

    I agree that Gee **must go**.

  • DrLizzyMoore says:

    Jesus Christ. Anonymity is the thing that allows these blogs to talk about the things that they do. I wasn't there for the outing, but it's disgusting--let's just call it an act of terrorism. We can either let the terrorists win or we can fight on.......

    Gert--thinking a lot about you lately. Take care of yourself 🙂

  • I'm wary of a standard that says "outing is always the act of a bully".

    Mainly, I'm wary of that because of things like this: http://gawker.com/5950981/unmasking-reddits-violentacrez-the-biggest-troll-on-the-web

    Rather, I'd say that outing is always an act of interpersonal violence. On very rare occasions, a small amount of directed interpersonal violence done in defense of others or in preventative self-defense (*) can be acceptable, but the default should be that the outer has wronged the person who's been outed. In that case, outing violentacrez acted to effectively shut down the major creepshots subreddits he ran. Sure, most of the hard-core creepshots people went elsewhere, but the overall world is better post-outing than pre-outing.

    Bullies generally use some form of violence. Absent other considerations, it is a reasonable prior to assume that someone seen using violence is a bully, but I reject the idea that the rest of the surrounding situation shouldn't be considered.

    (*) Drawing here a big distinction between prevention and retaliation.

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