Trying to Compensate for Twitter’s Shortcomings

I’m done with Twitter.

Not to sound overdramatic, but it’s breaking me. As the media and social media onslaught against transgender people steps up, nowhere is it more manifest than on Twitter. Doubtless there’s similar shit going on on Facebook, too, but my Facebook walls are easier to maintain, and inside the walls are a greater proportion of people who actually know me. Not all of them, even then, know me in real life, but most of them have an idea who I am, even if it’s only from Frithcast.

I have two Twitter accounts – or I did, until this morning. One was under my own name and up until recently had been little used. There was never really much I wanted to say on Twitter as Kate Coldwind. It was more just to follow people I wanted to support or amplify with retweets. But recently I’ve been getting drawn into the “So, trans people, then: should they all die, or what?” ‘controversy’ to the point where that account is just ugly now. I can’t seem to look at it without seeing some aggressive or malicious or just plain fatuous sterkovirbova I want to rail at.

The other account I created years ago to argue about brexit, and it’s been intermittently active since, but having established a bubble there of generally decent, kind people it’s become, if anything, a kind of mutual-support group for bereft Remainers – that is (for the benefit of non-Brits), people who wanted to remain in the European Union. I never really thought brexit would ever be reversed – too many very rich people had invested too much to allow that – but I wanted to oppose it as far as I could. So I used that account to do it, for the most part, keeping it all nice and separate and fenced off. It’s often involved a lot of arguments with the hard- to far-right and I’m not overly keen to have that shit finding its way here. Which is why I keep that separation fairly religiously.

But Nazis notwithstanding, the people in my anti-brexit bubble are generally quite lovely. Like I said, they’re kind, they’re supportive; they know about and accommodate my mental health issues and I try to support those of them who have their own – but they don’t know I’m trans. I couldn’t be bothered having that fight on my hands as well. I’m absolutely sure that for most of them it’d be no issue – some of them are themselves trans, and I hadn’t actively been trying to hide it, but there are some I’m unsure about; some who’ve been a little too keen to ask questions in that particular way that suggests there may well be a hint of the otariidine about them.

But the main reason I’m hesitant to disclose on that account is that, since the recent intensification in the anti-trans campaign I’d been increasingly arguing for trans rights on that account too, and at that point I couldn’t face admitting the truth, because it’d completely destroy any credibility my arguments might have had: “Well, it doesn’t count if you’re one of them! Obviously you’re going to say what’s in your interest, aren’t you?”

Which is pretty dishonest and I should doubtless be as ashamed of that as I do feel.

Until recently I had a third account, too.

Yeah, I know: for someone who doesn’t like Twitter I was pretty damn wrapped up in it, right?

I had an account for gaming. Originally it was supposed to be an in-character account for my Elite Dangerous pilot. But again, the world being the politically febrile shithouse that it is, and me being a person who finds it difficult not to say so, in many many thousands of words, it quickly turned into another kind of generalised anti-Tory, anti-fascist account… Again, lots of decent people in that bubble. Really nice, really supportive; they were aware I was trans and that was never a problem for them, but other things were. Or, more accurately, were likely to be. Not that they rejected me, at all – but I just stopped feeling part of their community. In ideological terms I had and have failings, and while I could’ve just reverted to treating the account as entirely in-character, firstly I never had the imagination to tell the stories anyway, and secondly the politics was pretty much ingrained in the community. I still agree with virtually everything they say, for the record: I am a firm leftie, after all. I’m just not good enough at being one. There are areas in which I fall short. So, with some regret, I wiped that account.

(There’s also the possibility, not lost on me, that the Elite account had to go because I’d found a community of like-minded, friendly people and I’d even managed to get involved with a group of them in an in-game project that was going to be really fun: one of them had bought himself a ‘fleet carrier’ – a huge ship that could carry other ships through long-range witchspace jumps like a kind of less-militant battlestar. I was part of the core team that set that up, until I guess my brain went, “Woah, hang on: you keep this up, you’re going to find something you enjoy and somewhere you feel like you belong, and we can’t have that. Please sever all these in-game connections and wipe your Twitter account. How dare you have nice things?”

Because that’s what my brain does. So I did.)

And now, finally, AtKaldrKate has to go. Like I said, it’s too much argument for me. It’s too many reasonable people wanting to have reasonable discussions and express legitimate concerns about whether I should exist or not. And don’t mistake me: I’m not for one moment suggesting I have it bad. I hope I’ve made that very clear already. I’m very aware that I’ve had a really easy time of it, and I have no right to feel besieged here, because in the main it’s not happening to me. I’m very lucky. I have kind friends and live in a community that, for all its ardent brexitiness seems, generally, quite willing to humour me when I go out and tell them, “My name’s Kate”. They don’t laugh or spit or even just try to have a reasonable discussion about how Kate is a girl’s name and shouldn’t I use something more appropriate because chromosomes and what’s my real name?

They don’t do that. Or haven’t so far. I’ve been very lucky.

I’m just tired. I’m tired of there being an argument I need to have everywhere I look. I always wanted to try to help people understand, but you can’t do that on Twitter. Twitter demands brevity, and abhors nuance. You can’t explain on Twitter how it feels to be transgender. You just can’t. I imagine other minority communities – Black and Asian people, the neurodiverse, the disabled, and others – have similar issues. There are just too many people out there demanding you make them understand in 280 characters or fewer so that when you fail – and fail you shall (thanks, Proximo) – they can declare you a fraud and feel vindicated in the hatred they already felt for you.

Like I said, I really want to try to help people to understand but it’s impossible, at least on Twitter, to know whether a question is sincere or just intended to get you to expend time and emotional effort trying to compensate for Twitter’s shortcomings as a communications medium. At least on Facebook, on a blog like this, hell, even over email, at least there’s room to breathe, and there’s room for detail.

Still, part of me feels guilty. Part of me feels like I should be fighting. I am privileged, after all, as trans people are often quick to remind me: I’m white and I have enough money to buy food and I’m older and all the various other ways in which my situation isn’t as valid as theirs, and they’re quite right. I do feel guilty already at having laid down my Twitter account when I should be using it to fight. Maybe this whole post is just ridiculously wordy wrangling with my cowardice.

I have one account left. My political-fury account remains. My Remainer account remains, hah. Maybe I should use it. Maybe I should make the admission there. Have the arguments. Put the point of view and try to educate. Maybe I will. I’ve always kept that account as far from my real world as possible, since as I say brexit politics has always been, and remains, very, very nasty. But maybe I should use that account at least for some useful purpose. If not, I should delete it as well.

But for here and now I need to breathe. For now I need Kate Coldwind’s social media bubble to be smaller. The people I know on Facebook, and the handful of people who occasionally read this blog. That’s it.

So, for now, to the tune of two deactivated accounts and one dormant one, pending my deciding whether that latter needs to be repurposed, I’m done with Twitter.

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