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I’d Like Gretchen Felker-Martin To Stop Tweeting Violent And Sexual Things About Me (Updated)
I know it’s for a good cause, but still
I try to keep this newsletter mostly free of complaints about people’s Twitter conduct toward me. If you write about controversial issues, people are going to say deranged things about you on Twitter. It’s inevitable. I ignore a lot of absolutely unhinged, defamatory garbage because there is nothing I can do about it, because a solid amount of it comes from anonymous and pseudonymous weirdos with no platform, and because I’d rather focus on the good faith critiques of my work I sometimes receive via email and (much more rarely) Twitter. There are plenty of people who disagree with me who don’t melt down over it.
Once in a while, when stuff has gotten out of hand and has involved other journalists or academics joining the defamation efforts, I’ve written about it (or others have), but this is rare. I’m making one of those rare exceptions simply to provide a record of some of the horror writer Gretchen Felker-Martin’s tweets about me over the last several years, because they are insane. I think her goal is to tweet enough incitement about me so that one of her unstable followers finds a way to harm me at some point. This probably won’t happen — instances of online harassment spilling over into real-world violence are thankfully quite rare — but I can’t come up with any other remotely credible explanation for her behavior. If you tweet false and inflammatory claims about someone over and over and over for years, as well as fantasies about them being violently murdered or sexually humiliated, you’re raising the likelihood that someone will take action.
I only became aware of most of these tweets because yesterday Felker-Martin tweeted that I, alongside Helen Joyce and J. K. Rowling, should have our throats slit. Why should we have our throats slit? Because a trans teenager was stabbed to death in the UK, and because people on Twitter immediately decided, despite a lack of any hard evidence, that it was a hate crime (police are still investigating the killing and have cautioned the public against spreading speculation and misinformation online).
Felker-Martin wrote: “Blood on Jessie [sic] Singal’s hands, blood on Helen Joyce’s, Rowling’s, every just-asking-questions journalist and fear-mongering TERFs. You’re scared for your children? They’re killing ours. … If they all had one throat, man.”
(I’m blocking out the victim’s image because it makes me queasy that a photograph of a murdered teen was used in this manner, and I don’t want that photograph to continue to get batted around like a tennis ball.)
Felker-Martin’s logic appears to be that because I have written critically about the evidence underpinning youth gender medicine, that led to someone getting stabbed. If you’re having trouble connecting the dots, I’m right there with you.
Until last night, all I knew about Felker-Martin was that she is a horror writer beloved by mainstream critics but infamous, among gender critical types, for a scene in her recent novel in which J. K. Rowling burns to death in a fire, and that she had once called me a Nazi (I’d responded by saying it’s a bad idea to call Jewish people Nazis, but I don’t think we’d had any other direct interaction). Once I saw Felker-Martin’s death threat, I searched for her other mentions of me, and it was fairly shocking, even by Twitter standards. Obviously the sexual and violent tweets are going to get the most attention here, but I also want to call attention to the chronic and hysterical exaggeration about what I’ve actually written versus what Felker-Martin, when she isn’t fantasizing about me masturbating or being lynched, has imagined I’ve written (though there’s a possibility I’m giving her too much credit and she is simply lying).
Felker-Martin is far from the only offender here. This misrepresentation is an ongoing problem that has contributed to some of the anonymous violent threats and invitations to commit suicide I’ve received on Twitter and via email. Those threats seem to come disproportionately from people who appear to be deeply misinformed about the content of my actual work — most likely, I think, because they follow Felker-Martin or the hundreds (thousands?) of other medium-to-large Twitter accounts who gleefully spread misinformation about it (when they aren’t complaining about those dang conservatives and their propensity for spreading Fake News). Felker-Martin’s descriptions of my writing on youth gender medicine would absolutely apply to someone who had, for example, called for transgender people to be rounded up and forcibly detransitioned or killed. But of course I’ve never written anything within light years of that. It isn’t hard to find actual examples of people spewing violent or abusive or dehumanizing language against trans people online, but Felker-Martin has decided to fixate on me instead.
I’m speculating here a little, but Felker-Martin’s MO appears to be building a fantasy version of her enemies in which they are so evil that no action toward them is unwarranted, and then using that depiction of them to justify her preexisting tendencies toward sadism and florid violent and sexual fantasies. This isn’t new — I found one of her violent tweets, captured by a right-wing tabloid site, dating back to 2017. In that one she told a city councilor who was opposed to Worcester, Massachusetts becoming a sanctuary city, “we’re gonna bury your lonely corpse in the overgrown lot behind State Liquors, Michael.”
Obviously Felker-Martin’s tweets about me aren’t directly analogous to real-world violence or abuse, but there’s a name for this pattern of “She hit me first!” abuse: DARVO, or “deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender.” You’ll see this consistently in the tweets that follow: Felker-Martin regularly claims I’m the aggressor, and joins a long line of other writers who, as retaliation for my writing on youth gender issues, have spread the defamatory claim that I’ve acted in a creepy way towards trans women online (years later, there’s still no evidence I’ve ever done anything like this, because they simply made it up). If any of this were true, it would imply she is merely acting in self-defense to protect herself, her community, and, as per her tweet last night, “her” children (meaning, apparently, all trans kids around the world). It’s very convenient! I’m so bad, and I’ve harmed so many people, that’s what’s a little open fantasizing about slitting my throat? What’s a little Twitter flash fiction about me getting lynched by her and her friends?
This whole thing is sick, it (slightly) increases the risk someone will seek to do me harm, and I’d like it to stop. I’d also like the ever-growing ranks of “anti-harassment” experts/entrepreneurs to simply admit that they don’t give a shit about this behavior when it comes from people with “good” politics. No one who isn’t already seen as “problematic” or “heterodox” ever raises a peep when I call attention to this stuff. It’s obvious that several of Felker-Martin’s tweets would have, on their own, effectively ended the mainstream career and associations of any writer with the “wrong” politics or identity characteristics. Everyone knows this. Seriously: Thomas Chatterton Williams becomes a trending topic for three days whenever he does a slightly cringe tweet during one of his online spats. Imagine him openly fantasized about slitting the throats of several of his enemies to the left! That would be it for his mainstream-media associations, at least for a few years. Felker-Martin can threaten anyone she wants, in increasingly grisly ways, and no one in her world who matters will lift a finger because they’re terrified of being labeled a transphobe. The cowardice is off the charts.
So she obviously isn’t going to lose work over this, and as profoundly grossed out as I am by her conduct, I don’t want her to. But I’m getting tired of the double standard on this: either online harassment, violent threats, and “stochastic terrorism” are worth devoting huge amounts of energy to, or they aren’t. Where journalists and academics in this area seem to have landed is that these subjects are worth covering and hand-wringing over only when the offending behavior is seen as flowing from right to left. But anyone who spends any time online knows that this sort of dehumanizing and sometimes eliminationist rhetoric is shooting off in every direction. The idea that the right has a monopoly on it is utterly laughable.
On to the tweets, with no further editorializing. This is just a partial sampling, and I’m not going to debunk the specific claims — the whiteness thing, the Kiwi Farms thing, and so on — because every single time, she is distorting or severely oversimplifying what actually happened. It’s as simple as that, and I’ve wasted enough time on this. No one who threatens you with violence has earned the right for you to engage with their concrete claims.
“the tricky science of whether or not Jesse Singal is allowed to vivisect us on live TV while jerking off”
“I open my closet door and find Jesse Singal furiously jerking it, his face purple, a belt drawn taut around his throat with its free end tied to the hanger rod.
Singal (strangled): A little PRIVACY?)”
“Jesse Singal’s entire career is suckling at whatever parts of trans people he can get his teeth into and then crying in big baby wails when we try to get our flesh out of his mouth.”
“Jesse Singal bravely answering the question ‘what if Goebbels was a little birthday boy, come on, you wouldn’t hit a little guy on his birthday?’ ”
“Jesse Singal using the KiwiFarms thing as an excuse to post screenshots of lurid, disgusting threats and anti-trans slurs to his followers. You can practically hear him tugging it.”
“I would simply like to see Jesse Singal’s browser history and hard drive.”
“Jesse Singal is politely trying to incite genocide.”
“Jesse Singal smugly hissing about who does and doesn’t count as white feels like the most inevitable piece of crypto-fash creep in recent history. … The man is one of a few dozen little American Goebbelses and the entire journalistic industry doesn’t care enough to stop it/agrees with him anyway”
“Jesse Singal does nothing but write in a reasonable, NPR-inquisitive tone about how trans people are burdensome and stupid. Trans women are his particular obsession, and his audience is families with a secret or not-so-secret desire to see us disappear.”
(Okay, a little editorializing: As a sommelier of Twitter derangement, I highly recommend pairing Felker-Martin’s “Singal is obsessed with us” tweet with her “Here’s me imagining Singal masturbating to me in my closet” tweet.)
“Cis people, fix your hearts* or die.
*Bind Jesse Singal with strong rope and bring him to the quarry at the edge of town. Give him to us alive and unspoiled. Leave, and no matter the sounds you hear, do not look back.”
Have a great week, everyone.
(Update, 2:50 pm: Felker-Martin appears to have deleted every single one of her tweets about me with no explanation. All the above screenshots were taken last night, so this just happened.)
(Update, 2/16/2023: Actually Felker-Martin didn’t delete them all. I didn’t search for her tweets with my Twitter handle rather than last name, and there are a few. For example, after Donald Trump announced a set of policy proposals I’ve expressed blanket opposition to since 2016 or so, here’s what she said (and archived here — in the future I’ll be better about archiving these sorts of tweets before they inevitably disappear):
I know people like @jk_rowling and @jessesingal are moral cowards who won't step forward to own this as the consequence of their relentlessly hatemongering, but make no mistake: you did this, and we all know it's what you wanted the whole time you sick, depraved people. We can all see you hiding behind plausible deniability while you wield conservative violence against us like a truncheon. Everyone knows how craven and pitiful you are, unable even to admit your own disgusting principles. All I have to say is that you ought to remember how things ended for Goebbels and Himmler. You might get yourselves the nightmare you're so obsessed with manifesting, but it's going to eat you alive in the end, and no matter how many of us you kill we'll keep being born, we'll keep inventing ourselves. You can never get rid of us. We will fuck on your neglected graves.
Goebbels and Himmler killed themselves, so Felker-Martin, in her call for kindness toward transgender people, is saying she hopes I kill myself, that my grave is forgotten, and that she is able to have sex on top of it.)