Trigger warning for transphobic and misogynistic language.
I’m about to get ranty here, so feel free to skip this if you like. I tried to go to a brony meetup at a theater today. I got there way early than I meant to, so I was just hanging out for a few minutes until the organizer, a fifteen-year-old boy, arrived, followed shortly by a guy in his mid-twenties. The following conversation is recreated as accurately as possibly based on my memory.
Since it was just the three of us, we were kind of just sitting around having rather stilted conversation, waiting for other people to show up. The organizer started talking about other people who had RSVPed. I do not recall what exactly prompted him to say this, and I really wish I could, but he suddenly said, “One of the people coming is a trap. They used to be a guy.”
I looked at him. “Trap?”
“It’s from General Akbar. ‘It’s a trap!’”
“I don’t really care where it’s from. Why did you call her a trap?”
“That’s what the Internet calls them.”
“Well, it’s an offensive word, and you shouldn’t use it.”
There was a pause where the wheels were turning in his head, trying to figure out why I would possibly care what word he used to describe a transperson. “Why? Are you a trap?” he asked.
“Are you a feminist?”
“Yes, and I’m gay. All LGBT issues concern me.”
“Well, what should I call them?”
“Male to female?”
“Then call her a woman. Or a girl, if she’s younger. Or a transwoman, if you have to push the issue.”
“He still has a penis though. So it’s still technically a guy.”
“But he can still feel—I mean, he’s still technically—”
“It doesn’t matter. You can change your gender legally, you know.”
“I know that.” Pause. “Look, I’m a Christian, but I don’t have a problem with traps. I can’t tell people what decisions to make in their life.”
“It’s not really a decision you make.”
“Maybe, but trap is—”
I stood up. “This isn’t fun. I’m leaving.” And I did.
First of all, I wish I had handled it better. The conversation is presented pretty plainly here, but I was getting steadily more angry the entire time, although I didn’t raise my voice or anything. The teenager himself didn’t seem like a bad guy. It was pretty clear he was talking more from a place of ignorance than hatred. And in the grand scheme of things, the worst thing he did was continue to use a slur after being told it was a slur. At fifteen, I probably would have been just as bad. It took me some time to learn better. He was young and home-schooled. Maybe I should have tried harder to educate him. I doubt he’d get it anywhere else.
At the same time, I was expecting to talk about rainbow ponies and possibly watch The Lion King, not have to try to educate teenagers on LGBT issues. I know I don’t yet have very well developed tools for dealing with that kind of ignorance, but that was not the place where I wanted to practice them. It was ponies! I wanted to have fun.
But what’s worse is that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen that kind of attitude in the brony community. I want to be able to talk about cartoons without having to hear transphobic slurs. I also want to be able to listen to brony podcasts without hearing a male commenter trying to defend rape jokes to his uncomfortable female colleagues. I want to be able to respond to a deviantART note from someone wanting to discuss MLP with me without it immediately degenerating into him talking about how what the show really needs is some strong, dominant stallions to be in charge of the girls, and how it’s only worth watching because the characters in the show are decent females, unlike real life where almost all women are consumerist whores. And this doesn’t even get into the vitriol produced on certain sites that is apparently thrown at pictures where humanized MLP characters are shown to not have model perfect bodies, or to be something other than uniformly white. Lest you think I’m making things up to prove my point, no, every one of these things happened, as much as I desperately wished they hadn’t.
What the hell, bronies? Why is it every time I try to dip a toe deeper into this fandom, this is what I see? Now I know all bronies aren’t like this, but just given my experiences? I’m concerned by how many of them apparently are.
Much has been made of the fact that the MLP fandom is an estimated 75% male, and those men are overwhelming straight. But I’m worried that’s not a good thing in the long run. If almost everyone has had the same experiences, what we can wind up with is an echo chamber where the voices for people of color, LBGTQ people, and even women are drowned out, because every time someone in one of those groups objects to something in the fandom, the 75% is there to shout them down.
This has been a frustrating fandom for various reasons since day one. I’m officially stepping out of it. I’ll continue to watch the show and enjoy it, but from now on I’ll leave the bronies alone.
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- guldentusks said: holy shit dude. good for you though. and i did not know about those stats on the brony fandom. dang!
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- positivityandpaperstars said: thanks for being a strong, clear positive voice. i have beliefs (i dont even wanna call myself christian because it leads to peoples neg experiences with people i dont agree with) and am hurt when when people are ignorant and hurtful. it makes me sad