CommunityPam's House Blend

When Our Means Aren’t As Pure As The Ends We Seek

Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.

~Martin Luther King Jr.

A.G. Casebeer recently failed not only himself, but the trans community he belongs to.

Thumbnail link: Cathy Brennan - Elizabeth Hungerford Letter To The UN Against Gender Identity Protections As background, Cathy Brennan and Elizabeth Hungerford wrote a letter to the UN against gender identity based civil rights legislation. Laurel Ramseyer, for Pam’s House Blend negatively critiqued the letter — trans community members in the blogosphere also negatively critiqued the letter, while a number of radfems and a number of transsexuals who don’t identify as transgender positively critiqued the letter.

Casebeer responded to Cathy Brennan’s and Elizabeth Hugerford’s letter to the UN with a comment found on a Facebook page. The comment, as described in the Louisville Courier-Journal article Threat Linked To Treasurer Of Fairness PAC, is related as follows:

The posting on Casebeer’s page stated of Brennan: a “nice home run swing to the head with a 38-oz. Louisville Slugger is more in order.”

It went on to say that if the poster “ever saw her in my windshield, I’ll be wiping blood off my white Buick. But I won’t be using the brakes.”

Casebeer was the treasurer of the Fairness PAC when he mad the comment — a PAC that lists in its core values:

We believe in non-violent, grassroots organizing that empowers individuals and build a social justice movement that creates lasting change.

Casebeer resigned from the Fairness PAC. He owned his mistake, he apologized, and outlined a plan for not repeating the mistake. A copy of his apology is found on Transgriot. Monica Roberts offered an apology as well because Casebeer’s comment was posted on one of her entries on her Facebook page.

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.

~Martin Luther King Jr.

There is no excuse for Casebeer’s comment. I’m about certain he felt provoked by Brennan’s and Hungerford’s letter to the UN, but just as we can’t accept a “I was provoked” defense from the teen who perpetrated violence on Larry King, we can’t accept any “I was provoked” defense for violence of the spirit expressed in words from trans people directed at others. And just as Jillian Todd Weiss wrote on Bilerico, threats of violence by trans advocates must be condemned.

[More below the fold.]

Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.

~Martin Luther King Jr.

Thumbnail Link to the Louisville Courier-Journal's 'Threat Linked To Treasurer Of Fairness PAC'Casebeer owned his mistake, apologized, and outlined a plan for not repeating the mistake — but harm has been done when he gave into anger and bitterness.

If I were Cathy Brennan, I would have called law enforcement — I’ve personally called law enforcement for a less explicit threat. One has to take all threats on one’s life seriously. A threat of violence in and of itself is real harm to the recipient of the threat.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

~Martin Luther King Jr.

Beyond the direct harm to Cathy Brennan, Casebeer harmed his community of trans people. When Brennan and Hungerford outlined fear of violence as a reason to be against gender identity based antidiscrimination protections, he harmed his siblings in trans community by giving credence to a fear of violence by trans people. He failed to put in the civil rights ideal that means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. He failed in remembering the second part of what Roz Kaveney has called the third axiom of trans activism:

Refuse to let journalistic and intellectual attacks on our community go unanswered — we can have and keep the moral high ground.

Casebeer’s comment is going to be remembered for a very long time — many will never forgive him for his comment. In that memory, trans community as a whole will have lost some of our moral high ground.

As I comment on Casebeer’s failure, I can’t help but remember my own public failures. One that many remember of mine is my cisgender/cissexual fail that I had to deeply apologize for. We all make mistakes, and public figures have to live with our public mistakes…our public failures. All we can do is own our mistakes, apologize, identify how we won’t repeat our mistakes, and then move forward as best we can — hopefully humbler and wiser for those experiences. But, there are many who will never forgive us for our public mistakes, and we have to live with the anger, and sometimes hurt, that we’ve left with others due to our words or actions. We simply cannot erase our public failures; we cannot, and should not, forget our public failures. If we forget our failures, then we are apt to repeat those failures.

I deserved condemnation for my failure.

And, A.G. Casebeer deserves condemnation for his failure. Threats of violence against someone strictly because one strongly disagrees with what that someone else says is unequivocally wrong.

I don’t envy Cathy Brennan at being at the receiving end of a violent threat. I don’t envy A.G. Casebeer in having to now live with his public failure. I don’t equate the two situations though — Cathy Brennan’s situation of being on the receiving end of a violent threat is clearly the much worse situation of the two.

We do not need to kill or destroy to win. We are a movement that builds and not destroys.

~Cesar Chavez

There is a lesson here for all of us who care about civil rights: our means must be as pure as ordinary equality we seek. When our means are corrupted by darkness, when we succumb to the temptation of bitterness, everyone touched by our corrupted means loses. We then don’t build community and movement; we destroy it.

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