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Part Two: Ashley Love And Anti-Defamation

This is part two of a series of essays on self-described transsexual anti-defamation activist Ashley Love. Part one of this series explains why I’ve written and I’m posting this series of essays.

~~Autumn Sandeen~~

“We want our humanity to be respected, and to shake the toxic and oppressive stigma off our community, stigma like this film inspires,” said Ashley Love of Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Trans People (MAGNET), which organized the protest with other transgender advocates. Love said MAGNET met with festival organizers in late March, but Tribeca refused to remove the film.

~Ashley Love quoted in The Advocate‘s Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives Protested

As an anti-defamation activist, Ashley Love has expressed noble thoughts regarding how trans people shouldn’t be defamed as a class of people. Her Blogger biography states the following regarding her work:

[Ashley Love] is the Organizer of Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Transsexual & Transgender People (MAGNET). MAGNET is an anti-defamation organization dedicated to educating the media about transsexual and transgender issues, as well as pushing for more authentic and positive portrayals of trans people in the media.

So with that as a measure of how to look at the body of written work, it’s rather sad to discover that as a writer, a blogger, and a Facebook participant, she’s also engaged in using derogatory language against members of the transgender community — couching her complaints against transgender identified community members in terms of derogatory, antitransgender terminology.

For example, there’s Love’s use of the word “transvestite” without acknowledging that within the United States the term is most often considered a derogatory term. The largest anti-defamation organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community is the  Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and in their GLAAD Media Reference Guide the organization says this about the term:


Derogatory see Cross-Dressing

Under Cross-Dressing, the guide states the following:


To occasionally wear clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. Cross-dressers are usually comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth and do not wish to change it. “Cross-dresser” should NOT be used to describe someone who has transitioned to live full-time as the other sex or who intends to do so in the future. Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and is not necessarily tied to erotic activity. Cross-dressing is not indicative of sexual orientation.

Examples of where Love has used the term “transvestite” without acknowledging that the term has been identified as derogatory is found the January, 22, 2010 Trans Forming Media essay Thoughts On Transsexual (not to be confused with CD/TV/GQ) Inequality In A Diverse “Transgender” Umbrella (which she crossposted to her Facebook account under the title Are Transsexual Women Being Bullied Into Signing A PC Contract That Strips Them Of Thier Identities & Sexualizes Them?). The excerpts are included here with emphasis added for the term “transvestite”:

If a man gets satisfaction putting on a dress and using the woman’s restroom, who am I to judge him? I may not feel safe if I was in that bathroom when he was in there, but whatever strokes one’s boat, I think, or maybe he should use the man’s bathroom, just to be respectful. So some of my trans feminist friends plead not to include the transvestites in our mission, but would we really want to start a war with transvestite men just because we have nothing in common with them?


Now I do have friends in the trans community, but I still think more attention needs to devoted to “transsexuals” who personally identify with the binary, and who feel that “transgender” and “transvestite” new politics are ignoring the wants of many “transsexuals”. I know today’s youth wont forget “transsexuals”


A few transsexual women friends of mine contacted me and wanted to know why I seemed to be so wishy washy on the whole transvestite inclusion/separatism from “transsexuals” issue. I do not think that transvestites should use the women’s restroom just because they have decided to dress up in women’s clothing. Transvestism is a lifestyle, an expression. Where transsexual is gender, and not sex or entertainment related.

In the  August 17th, 2010 Trans Forming Media essay Attention all Women Born with a Transsexual and/or Intersex Birth Challenge: You Have The Right to Vote Too! Happy Women’s Equality Day! Love used of the term “transvestite” in a derogatory manner:

[More below the fold.]

TS & IS women are NOT drag queens, fetishists, transvestites, gender dismantlists and gender queer activists. These are people who were born with a medical condition, and it’s high time the sexist and transsexual-phobic practice of misrepresntation stops.


Ever since cross dressing men and transvestites co-opted the transsexual movement, TS folks have actually LOST already pre-existing rights.

In a December 27, 2010 entry on Facebook, Love linked to a TS-SI opinion essay by Evangelina Carters, entitled Transvestism Is a Narcotic Drug. Her header for the essay link was:

A new article that discusses the vital differences between transsexual women and cross dressing males.

There were those in the comment thread for Love’s Facebook entry that questioned why she linked to that essay. She answered them this way:

Many people here have missed the point. The point is that there is a difference between a medical condition and a fetish. The author of this blog generalized too much, but she still had some points

Here are some of Evangelina Carters’ points from that TS-SI essay (emphasis added):

The male transvestite who begins by gaining sexual gratification through wearing items of female clothing and will progress slowly through multiple stages and levels of cross dressing to obtain ever higher levels of excitement. Transvestism acts like a narcotic drug.

• I’ve watched as men in the early stages of cross dressing gradually progress from occasionally wearing their wives underwear for sexual kicks, through to creating a full female image. It seems never to stop there but instead tends to progress, ever closer to creating a more convincing feminine image until there is nowhere else to go, save hormones and SRS to create the ultimate pass. In other words naked in front of a mirror or better still in sexual intercourse with either sex.

It may take years in some cases as the individual becomes ever more curious about even greater levels of cross gender activity until eventually and seemingly inevitably they seek more permanency to the cross dressing. In other words full time and eventually may even move on to surgical procedures.

• At this point in old terms they would be described as “transgender” Currently everyone claims to be “transsexual.” It seems it is forgotten that transsexuals are born and that it is not a stage that transvestites progress towards.

Evangelina Carters made the argument that many late transitioning transsexuals — transsexual people who transition in midlife or later — are really just “transvestites” that aren’t “true transsexuals.”

Transgender scholar and activist Joelle Ruby Ryan made this comment about the Carters’ essay in the comment thread for the Love’s Facebook entry:

[T]his article = epic fail. It would do J. Michael Bailey, Anne Lawrence, Ken Zucker and Ray Blanchard proud. It is typical junk science exemplified by anti-crossdresser bias and hatred towards late transitioners AND lesbian-identified trans women. The author is on a serious ego trip to make herself feel superior by degrading others in the larger trans community. She is also very erorophobic by slamming those who receive pleasure from cross-dressing. This is just another tired refrain of the “primary” transsexuals versus the “secondary” transsexuals with her being primary and therefore more genuine and authentic. Hooey.

Instead of promoting that comment from Ryan, Love promoted comments (here and here) by Margaux Ayn Schaffer to Love’s Facebook front page.

There is nothing wrong with transvestism, just don’t try to pass it off as being transsexual.


Millitant transgenderists are guilty of paradigmal piracy. The point being that it has taken years for transsexualism to be understood and accepted, then a bunch of people are storming the gates purporting to be transsexual because the stigma appears to be breaking away. Transgenderism is a legitimate lifestyle, but it’s very unethical to simply annex transsexualism and colonize it just to build your numbers for the sake of activism.

The term “transgenderist” is defined in detail here, but in short the term is referring to crossdressers who still identify with their natal sex, but who dress and live full time in clothing associated with the opposite sex.

These promotions of statements of Margaux Ayn Schaffer were accompanied with Love selecting the “Like” button for these comments, meaning that she liked the comments herself. With the promotion and the “liking” of the Schaffer comments, it seems pretty clear that Love agrees with the essay points of Evangelina Carters regarding “transvestites” and late transitioning transsexual people. And, of course, that is born out in other comments that Love has made that are included in this series of essays.

And, Love took the idea of who is a true transsexual and who in it from the macro to the micro in labeling me as a “transgenderist.” In a December 30, 2010 Facebook entry, Love posted a link to the TS-SI essay Autumn Sandeen (Did Not) Die For Your Sins (that I responded to at PHB here). This is the header that Love attached to the essay link (emphasis added):

FYI: I did not write this article, nor do I co-sign all the ideas mentioned in it. I just want 2 acknowledge that many women w/ a transsexual condition do not subscribe 2 some in the gender non-conforming or cross dressing (or transgender) mission statement. Transgenderist Sandeen has proven time & time again that they r willing 2 bulldoze over actual transsexual women 4 unethical political reasons.

The final paragraph of the piece to which Love links to concludes in this way:

Women of history should be thankful that at least none of the photos of Sandeen show a tented skirt. Tell me again why transvestic fetishism needs to be removed from the DSM.

Love, who has literally made news in battling media use of the term “tra**y” to describe transsexual identified and transgender identified people, linked to an essay which refers to me as a tra**y. She did not object to use of that term to describe me.

And too, the essay misgendered me as “he” nine times, and Love didn’t object to that either. The GLAAD Media Reference Guide states this about misgendering:

Whenever possible, ask transgender people which pronoun they would like you to use. A person who identifies as a certain gender, whether or not that person has taken hormones or had some form of surgery, should be referred to using the pronouns appropriate for that gender.


The Associated Press Stylebook provides guidelines for journalists reporting on transgender people and issues. According to the AP Stylebook, reporters should “use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly”

Ashley Love has used the term “transvestite,” as well of variants of the term, without pointing out it’s a derogatory term. She’s used the term and its variants in a derogatory manner herself, and linked to an essayist with whom she agrees with who made a case that late transitioning transsexuals are often not “true transsexuals,” but “transvestites” who have progressed into falsely identifying themselves as transsexual people. And then, in an apparent atempt to label me one of those falsely progressing “transvetstites,” Love called me a “transgenderist” — intentionally misgendering me as male by her use of that term to describe me.

Update: The proof that Love’s misgendering me — by calling me a “transgenderist” — was an intentional misgendering, she followed up her previous comments with the use of the term “male” to refer to me. From a Facebook comment on January 9, 2011:

Maybe in the ultra masculine military there is lack of humanity and civility with many men, but cyber bullying in the name of “journalism” is just trashy and immature. I guess thats what happens when Gay Inc glorifies the military industrial complex and commissions certain unstable males to bash any transsexual woman who addresses individuality and feminism.

And too, she used the male pronoun “he” to refer to me here.

It’s not that she’s disagreeing with me that is the issue — I expect to be disagreed with and attacked with ad hominem attacks. It’s how she, as someone with a high profile, is disagreeing with me. She’s engaing in defaming behavior that is hypocritical to her self-identification as an anti-defamation activist for transgender community members.

This is in contrast to what the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation states about the term “transvestite,” and in contrast to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation states regarding how crossdressing terminology shouldn’t be used for people who have transitioned.

I’m finding it difficult to fully embrace Ashley Love as an anti-defamation activist. This is because in the past year she’s used derogatory, antitransgender language herself, and links to essays that use derogatory language without highlighting that derogatory language has been used in the essays.

As I’ve said before, Love’s mission and vision — found in her blogger biography — reads quite nobly. But, what I’ve found in looking at Ashley Love’s writings over the past year is that although Love claims to be an anti-defamation advocate, some of her commentary is derogatory towards members of the transgender community she identifies herself as working on behalf of.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) doesn’t do their anti-defamation work by defaming others, nor does the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The tactics and language that Love has been using for the past year are more akin with how the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) and Family Research Council (FRC) do their work than the tactics and language of other anti-defamation focused organizations and people do their work.



* Part One: Ashley Love And Anti-Defamation


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Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen