It’s almost 6am here in New York City. I just got back from a long night of partying post-Dyke March, my very first Dyke March ever. I was honored to lead the march with the banner, touched to see so many of our allies cheering us on, and just proud to be able to celebrate being who I am. Now, as I sit in my kitchen, decompressing, I have time to reflect on an incident that occurred during Dyke March that will surely make its rounds on the feminist blogosphere. I’m choosing to address this now, before the video is published, because I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of.
Cathy “Bug” Brennan, a woman who spends much of her life fostering hatred toward trans women (trigger warning for transmisogyny on those links, her entire blog, basically her entire existence), has posted on her Twitter, Tumblr, and I’m sure every other venue she can access, about trans activists “assaulting” her at Dyke March. Well, folks, I have no problem saying it – I, Holly Renee Reinhardt, am one of the people who “assaulted” her.
For those of you who don’t know, Cathy pretty much spends every waking moment doing something to alienate trans women from women-oriented spaces. She has this asinine theory that trans women want to be included in these spaces because they have a desire to sexually harass lesbians. She has written quite a few nasty things about people that I know personally, for no other reason than being who they are. Basically, Cathy Brennan is the type of person that I went in to activism to fight against.
After the march had completed at Washington Square Park, my dear friend approached me saying that she wanted to talk to Cathy, who happened to be at the Dyke March, but wanted folks standing with her in solidarity so that Cathy would see that she wasn’t alone in feeling this way.
My initial reaction to Cathy when she greeted my friend was that, perhaps, she was going to sincerely apologize for the horrible things she had done, and truly have an open discussion. But the tone from Cathy changed, and my friend kept trying to speak up, only to be interrupted time and time and time again by Cathy Brennan and her ignorance. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut anymore.
I spoke up and, quite powerfully, told her to give my friend a voice, because trans women are always silenced. This was met with Cathy repeatedly interrupting me. I tried to start the conversation with a simple “Look, we’re both cis women, let’s level here”, but Cathy freaked out and insisted that she doesn’t identify that way. Being the person I am, I immediately apologized for misgendering her, not realizing that she meant that she actually doesn’t believe in the word “cisgender”. She asked if we could talk, we walked over to the edge of the park, and the group followed us. That’s where shit, as they say, hit the fan.
Cathy sat down on a bench, immediately asking if anyone would like to sit in her lap. When someone called her out for sexually harassing us, she dismissed us like we were too insensitive, that it was a joke. It definitely was her idea of a joke, but at the same time, she insists that trans women are “bullying” lesbians in to sleeping with them. The failing logic only escalated.
At this point, I can’t even recall all of exactly what was said, but it ended up being about a dozen folks being mostly silent while myself and another person were the folks that were mainly talking to her. She kept interrupting us when we had valid points to make, she deliberately misgendered the other person in the argument, she consistently played the victim while denying that she did anything to deserve having folks call her out. My favorite part was that, when I brought up the fact that trans women are dying every single day because folks like her perpetuate transphobia, she harped on the fact that women are killed all the time because of systematic oppression. I wasn’t arguing with her on that, but the point is this – nothing I have done or said has intentionally contributed to the bullying and harassment of a marginalized group. I most certainly have not written an open letter to her parents, condemning her for being a dyke, or any of the countless amount of things she’s done to bully trans women.
She continued to pile on hate-filled rant after hate-filled rant, to the point that, after I decided to leave before it escalated any worse than it already had, I went to my friends and immediately broke down, sobbing hysterically, dealing with a panic attack. If anyone was harassing anyone, it was Cathy Brennan and her delusional diatribes in which she invalidated the existence of the people I love, triggered several other people to the point of tears, and played the victim while doing it. Not to mention that she had her (ignorant, delusional) posse stand beside her, filming the entire thing with smug looks on their faces. If Cathy felt she were being harassed, she could have left, but instead, she continued stoking the fire so that she would get a rise out of us to show to her followers who have, without ANY details whatsoever, come to the conclusion that we are worse than religious activists, that we are horrible people, etc.
I lost my temper, I’m not going to skate around that. Folks who know me know that it takes a lot to get me truly angry. I blow off steam sometimes, but this was pure anger coming out of me, something I can’t ever remember feeling. I was angry because I am so tired of trans women not having voices in the feminist and queer communities. I am tired of these women being shut down when they finally DO have the chance to speak. I am tired of people claiming to be feminists, then giving the movement a bad name, to the point where I can no longer feel comfortable identifying as such. I was tired of my dear friend, time after time, being told that her feelings were invalid in activist spaces. I felt that I, as an ally, had the responsibility of speaking up, and I did.
My trans sisters are dying every single day because people like Cathy Brennan foster such hatred and bigotry. So do I regret losing my temper? No. Am I sorry that she felt uncomfortable because she had to deal with a couple of trans folks and their allies calling her out on her bullshit? Hell no.
I’m not going to kiss anyone’s ass or apologize for losing my cool with someone so delusional, who treats my sisters like they are sub-human. You reap what you sow.
I’m going to take a stab at this, since it appears that you were one of the individuals who participated in the incident.
First of all, let’s make it very clear: this was a Dyke March, which is an open event for all WSW, even the ones you don’t like. Just as you have every right to attend, so too do the people who disagree with you.
Just to make that very clear.
I’m choosing to address this now, before the video is published, because I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of.
In political parlance, this is called “Spinning” the situation. You “spin” the situation into something to suit you. If you were truly confident in your actions, you wouldn’t be writing a massive long post, and you would allow the video to stand on its own merits, instead of trying to pre-empt it.
She has this asinine theory that trans women want to be included in these spaces because they have a desire to sexually harass lesbians
With all due respect, debunking someone’s “asinine theory” that trans women want to be included in events i order to harass lesbians by… harassing lesbians may not, in fact, be the way to go about that.
But I’m sure you considered that, right?
wanted folks standing with her in solidarity so that Cathy would see that she wasn’t alone in feeling this way.
Can you explain the subsequent photo of fifteen+ activists surrounding a single individual? What did your friend think Brennan was going to do? This is important, as well, because it states that you and your friend approached her.
That, in and of itself, is notable, because it shows that you to went up to her with the full intent of ‘fighting’ her.
You instigated the conflict.
“she was going to sincerely apologize for the horrible things she had done, and truly have an open discussion”
“interrupted time and time and time again by Cathy Brennan and her ignorance”
So you were not, in fact, aiming for an open discussion, Chub. You were looking for a mea culpa and when that wasn’t forthcoming, you escalated the issue. You interjected because the “open debate” wasn’t going your way and your chosen target hadn’t changed her mind. That’s not a debate, that’s a dog-pile.
When someone called her out for sexually harassing us
By asking, in what even you concede was a joke, if someone wanted to sit in her lap? I don’t know the context, but surely you must be aware that some people attempt to defuse uncomfortable situations with humor?
Likewise, if that’s your criteria for sexually harassment, you have an extremely low bar for it. Aren’t you lucky to have that privilege!
when I brought up the fact that trans women are dying every single daybecause folks like her perpetuate transphobia, she harped on the fact that women are killed all the time because of systematic oppression
Are you aware that she has a point? Here’s some statistics for you, Chub:
- In the United States, one-third of women murdered each year are killed by intimate partners.
- In South Africa, a woman is killed every 6 hours by an intimate partner.
- In India, 22 women were killed each day in dowry-related murders in 2007.
- In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day.
That is four countries, and there are hundreds more. I haven’t had time to do the math but I would venture that there are more women killed a day, world-wide, than there are trans* people in the entire US.
Likewise, I sincerely doubt that the individuals who are attacking and murdering trans* women are doing so under the auspices of radfem theory.
Here’s the wiki list of recent trans* murders and as you may notice, the vast majority of the perpetrators were heterosexual men who were involved sexually with the victim.
None of the espoused any feminist philosophy in any way. You’re welcome to try to make the case that radfems are perpetrating or enabling the murder of trans* women—but you have to provide the proof, which thus far has been sadly lacking.
hate-filled rant after hate-filled rant, to the point that, after I decided to leave before it escalated any worse than it already had, I went to my friends and immediately broke down, sobbing hysterically, dealing with a panic attack
With all due respect, you approached someone, verbally engaged them, and then try to call yourself the victim because your feelings were hurt?
Nope, sorry, not buying it. Just because you had hurt feelings and a panic attack doesn’t mean you and yours weren’t bullies. You attacked someone verbally and got upset when they became defensive and reacted back? How puerile can you be?
If anyone was harassing anyone, it was Cathy Brennan and her delusional diatribes
Whether you agree with her or not, the fact of the matter is: you approached an individual uninvited, engaged them in an “open debate” which you yourself admit was really an attempt to engage her in an argument and then continued the debate past the point of decency.
That means you’re the harasser. Whether you like someone’s politics or not, you’re the harasser in this situation, and that’s pretty plain to see. The fact that you cried afterwards doesn’t make you any less at fault.
Not to mention that she had her (ignorant, delusional) posse stand beside her, filming the entire thing with smug looks on their faces
You and a large group of people came up to her invited and engaged her in what apparently devolved into a rage-fest. Are you surprised she wanted video documentation? She likely felt at risk; likewise, she is allowed to have friends back her up—you yourself were acting in that capacity.
If you’re allowed your backup, you can’t deny her that same right.
If Cathy felt she were being harassed, she could have left
How? Left an argument where she was outnumbered and being yelled at, pushed through a group of obviously hostile individuals who had already specifically approached and targeted her?
What would that have accomplished? You stated that you felt harassed—so by that same token, why didn’t you and yours leave?
come to the conclusion that we are worse than religious activists, that we are horrible people, etc.
If you don’t want to give people that impression, then maybe don’t act like complete tits and dogpile someone who’s there to enjoy a social event. You can’t say “we’re good people!!1!” and then create a ring of shouting around a woman. That isn’t how this works.
I was angry because I am so tired of trans women not having voices in the feminist and queer communities.
Which is of course why the second you and your friend opened your mouths at Dyke March, you were brutally bound and gagged and silenced, correct?
My trans sisters are dying every single day because people like Cathy Brennan foster such hatred and bigotry
Incorrect. As the above link made clear, trans* women are killed because homophobic and transphobic men routinely commit murder in order to cleanse themselves of being ‘gay’ for sleeping with a trans* woman. (Their thoughts, obviously, not mine.)
Men, not women, and certainly not radfems, are the near-exclusive perpetrators of violence against women (including trans women). So let’s give the credit where its due—lets work together to end male violence against women.
I’m not going to kiss anyone’s ass or apologize for losing my cool
That’s alright, chub. After a couple of months on tumblr, no one was really expecting you to. That would imply maturity.
Honestly is there ANYTHING on earth or Tumblr more pathetic that this song and dance? “I instigate a fight with you, you react, OMG TRIGGERED PANIC ATTACK HDU TRIGGER MY EXTREME MENTAL FRAGILITY!!!!!” How about not cornering someone and harassing them in public, oh I’m sorry I mean “engaging in a call out”? Especially if you’re made of such weak and pathetic fragile Victorian shut-in stuff that you can’t even take the back-and-forth of a heated argument?