Okay, this may come off as some kind of grand defence of Natalie Wynn, but that isn’t what I was going for. I don’t want this to read like I am coming down on people who have issues with her or coming down on her. This isn’t about that and it just isn’t my place to tell people how they feel. The only parts that are about Wynn are the parts where her name is mentioned. The rest is about the subject of prominent trans people screwing up/being problematic/doing harm. Judging Wynn and/or her detractors is not what this is about.
Roughly once a year I stumble ass-backwards into online discourse about Natalie Wynn, a trans woman who makes YouTube videos under the name ‘Contrapoints’. And every single time I see such a wide range of opinion and passionate responses in so many directions that it leaves me feeling totally confused. The trans community is united on so many fronts but it is safe to say, Natalie Wynn divides opinion more so than almost any other topic and it feels like we are never that far away from another round of debate in the community.
It has been said that she hates non-binary people
It has been said that she supports non-binary people
It has been said that she is a trans med
It has been said that she is the reason many people stop being trans med
It has been said that she is racist
It has been said that she is anti-racist
It has been said she is a fascist
It has been said that she is anti-fascist
It has been said that she is the worst person
It has been said that she is the best person
Not all of these things can be true. They contradict each other. If you look at the takes…somebody has to be wrong because these takes are so polarised. I do not want to go over the things Wynn has said and done all over again, there is very little point and almost nothing to gain from it. But discourse around Wynn and other well known trans people isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and I think there is a phenomena that explains the polarisation here.
Trans people are an oppressed people and I firmly believe we are all carrying varying levels of trauma as a result. We have all been attacked in different ways for being who we are. That is a point so obvious it feels like a waste of words saying it. But this means that we are VERY invested in how the well known members of our community present themselves to the world. I think we have all had that sinking feeling when seeing some of the stuff Caitlyn Jenner, Buck Angel and other unrepentantly shitty prominent trans people have said and done in the cisgender world. I think we have all felt the fear of the potential rocks that could be thrown at us as a result of a well known trans person giving the go ahead for transphobia.
But also there is the angle that it can feel like such a massive rejection when a prominent trans person says or does something that seemingly rejects you from the community in some way. Trans men have expressed total dismay over Buck Angel going full GC because he meant something to them, and I cannot imagine what that must feel like. The pain that some non-binary people must feel when they see Wynn being celebrated…that is fucking real.
On top of that there is the fact that well know trans people have a perception of having power and privilege, and to an extent that is true. I can tell you, as someone who has a platform in the community, it absolutely opens doors (not as many as you think).
But it also comes with a lot of downsides. Including how many, very understandably, almost feel a sense of ownership over you and what you should be saying and doing. You are setting an example and what you do could result in harm, so it makes sense.
But a person cannot be all the things all the time. To a certain point, prominent trans people who aren’t overtly nightmarish cannot ever be radical enough, conventional enough etc. I am yet to see a well known trans person not be on the wrong side of this at some point. But when it comes to Natalie Wynn, things get complicated.
Her output has been celebrated as an educational resource on the topics of trans identity as well as a great many other subjects. Whereas someone like me isn’t trying to de-radicalise cis people, that seems to be her bread and butter. So when she either makes mistakes regarding non-binary people/goes on the attack against them (depending on who you ask) it is going to hit even harder.
None of this is an excuse for any wrong doing Wynn may or may not have done or the overtly abusive crap that has been hurled at her. Explanations are not excuses.
It always feels like there is another round of WYNN DISCOURSE incoming. Almost certainly because her work is beloved by so many in our community. Her videos have absolutely been there for trans people who are desperate, FUCKING DESPERATE to not feel alone at 2am. When you have a bunch of people whose lives have been improved by her work and a bunch of people who have been hurt by her work…*boom*.
I don’t think anyone can argue that the situation has been resolved. And I don’t think many could argue that anything good has come from it. The effect on Wynn has been clear, she has come out saying her heart is broken over the whole thing and as someone who has been dogpiled a bunch I can attest to the mental toll that takes. But it is just as true that the effect of some of the things she has chosen to do has caused harm. I have been told so many times about how stuff she has done has hurt people. That is real.
And all the elements I have already outlined, makes this a total shit show. To the point that just saying her name in certain online spaces is enough to start digital fist fights.
I have some thoughts on how we go through situations like this, but I should say I am a millennial transgender woman who makes things online. I have a biased sense of sympathy for people like Wynn who make things online, even though I have had some serious issues with things she has done. That is almost certainly coming into play here so take that into account and if you think I am wrong, let me know and ill try not to be a dick about it.
Also, these points aren’t specifically about Wynn, and I am not going to tell anyone to forgive her or anything like that because, how the hell can I? But next time a prominent trans person does something shitty, maybe think about these points.
1.Prominent trans people must try to think carefully about the effect they could have on the community
Seems obvious and it may sound like I am implying that Wynn does not do this but I think something that those of us who find ourselves with an audience/spotlight on us constantly need to think is: “Will this benefit my community? Will this hurt people?”
And if you screw up, really try to understand it and know that people fuck things up and that doesn’t magically mean they you a doomed, terrible person. Nobody intends to spill milk, but you are probably going to spill milk at some point and you have to try and clean it up.
Especially because prominent trans people kind of asked to be in the milk factory when they started putting themselves out there (even if it didn’t feel like it, in my case).
To an extent, it isn’t fair on trans people to have to try to be perfect to avoid potentially hurting their community in many potential ways. But that is the reality. Trans creators have to give time to kicking the tires on their output and if they put out something that harms people, try their hardest to make it right.
2. Everyone else must try to cut prominent members of our community SOME slack
This is going to be read as “letting people off” but that is not what I am saying. We have all been shitty about something in the past. Of course we have. Nobody is perfect, we grow up in a world full of toxic shit. How can it be that we get through it without being tainted by it in some way? That happened to me. When I was at primary school I tried to get into football because ALL THE BOYS LOVE FOOTIE and my father told me that Black football players foul a lot. I cannot have been more than 9-10 years old so I believed him for several years. I don’t think this means I am a fundamentally bad person beyond redemption. It means I had a father with toxic racist crap going on and he imprinted it on me.
This isn’t to excuse overtly terrible shit. I don’t think it excused me, I told people that Black people fouled more in football and that will have caused harm and that is on me even if I was just a kid. But we have all done it, maybe there is more to gain from cutting a bit of slack and giving people a shot to correct and maybe undo the damage.
3. We have to outright reject the toxicity from those few who revel in it.
They are out there. People who, for whatever reason, just want to see people burn. These are not the same people as those who are hurt or harmed when a prominent trans person fucks up/does something shitty. Most people here who are reading this and have a negative opinion of Wynn do not fall into this category. These are the people who relish taking people down because they believe that shows that they are the goodies or whatever.
These people are out there in all communities online and Twitter especially. Maybe they have every reason for being like that, maybe they have trauma and throwing that at prominent trans people is what they do to relieve that. But this is just being abusive and it is actively harming people who are trying to explain why a prominent trans person’s actions weren’t great. For a start it gives those who are unrepentant in their shittyness an easy way out by saying “all the haters are absurd”.
If those who are hurt by a fire are trying to put out that fire, the last thing they need is a bunch of people coming in and pouring petrol on it. You can usually tell who these people are because they aren’t looking to solve a problem. They are seeking to destroy someone.
4. We have to make some kind of pathway back
When a cisgender person renounces GC crap they are celebrated in the community. I have seen this so many times, they admit they got it wrong, they own up to the damage they have done and try to do better and (I think rightly) they are given a pathway back.
Right now there doesn’t appear to be that way back for prominent trans people who do similar and are willing to face the harm they caused and be accountable. I think maybe this is the case because, it could be argued, they should have known better in the first place.
But what good does this do? Black marking people in our community forever? Sometimes that is probably required but I think we have to give people a shot on making things right if they genuinely want to.
I cannot say whether any specific trans man or woman should be offered some way back after doing some bad non-binary related stuff. That isn’t my call. But I think there has to be a route back for people who fuck up and actually want to make it right and do the work.
This isn’t the same as forgiveness. I can’t tell anyone to forgive anyone.
I hope this has given you something to think about and I really hope I haven’t unintentionally brushed anyone aside. But I think as a community we have to figure out how to deal with these situations in better ways.
Ways that actually make things right and I don’t know how else to do it. Got any ideas? Share them and if I am wrong about something let me know. I will try to follow my own advice.