I was asked by a friend what the Smut Marathon judges could do to ensure that the competition is a safe place for trans and non-binary writers. This is my response, because there is more that our cis allies could be doing right now.
Trans voices are not being listened to – our call out of the transphobia in the sex blogging community was met with some token apologies. Oh, and likes being bestowed on a blog post that compared those of us who had called out the cissexism that has been hurting us to Nazis. This is when we need our allies to step up and show those who have mocked and dismissed trans and non-binary writers that there are consequences to doing so.
Right now, those who were called out for their transphobia have given their incredibly insincere apologies and locked their accounts. People are still commenting on their blogs, sharing their writing, and taking part in the projects they run. As Quenby said: if there aren't actually any tangible repercussions for being a bigot then what incentive is there for people to do better?
The Smut Marathon is predominantly cis-normative in a way that harms trans and non-binary folks. At minimum, I think the organiser should add to the rules that they are working to make the Smut Marathon a space for queer, trans, disabled, POC, etc. writers, and that transphobic (etc.) feedback will not be published.
Additionally, transness is often treated as a kink you either are or aren't 'into' and is therefore a valid reason to negatively critique a story based on your own sexual preferences. Transness is not a kink and marking down a story because you do not understand the language used in it is not acceptable.
So, what can you do, dear cis ally?
As a cis person either participating in or judging the Smut Marathon, you are in a position of power. I want to see you use that power because your voice will be listened to where mine will not.
Continuing to work with someone who has been called out for transphobia and done nothing to make amends to the trans and non-binary folks they have harmed gives legitimacy to their actions. To compare it to ‘voting with your money’, right now you are all still giving money to a transphobic company who hasn’t done anything to change its behaviour.
I’m not saying that participants should withdraw from the competition. I’m also not saying that the judges should resign either, but there are things they can do:
· Use their direct line to the Smut Marathon organiser to ensure that new rules are added that forbid transphobia in both entries and feedback,
· Put pressure on the Smut Marathon organiser to remove the cissexist feedback that is still published on a trans writer’s entry in the third round,
· Ask for a trans writer to write a guest post sharing some common words that might come up if people are writing trans or non-binary characters, so people cannot give feedback that this language makes them uncomfortable or they don’t understand it,
· Refuse to judge alongside other judges who have a public history of transphobia, and
· Ask for trans and non-binary representation among the judges in future years of the competition.
If the Smut Marathon organiser will not comply with at least some of these requests and be transparent about what they are doing to make sure the competition is inclusive of trans and non-binary folks, I hope that participants and judges will consider refusing to take part. To quote Quenby again: allyship doesn't mean writing a thoughtful blog post, it means taking a stand and not accepting this behaviour even when there aren't brownie points to be won.
As of 2nd May, nothing has been done to make me believe that the behaviour of the Smut Marathon organiser has changed, and thus I have no reason to think that trans and non-binary participants in the competition will be judged fairly. I am disappointed to see that people are still supporting the Smut Marathon even though these issues have not been addressed.
A final note: I – and other trans and non-binary sex bloggers – do not have to be civil to those who have hurt us, and it is incredibly thoughtless to ask us to have compassion for those who refuse to do us the common decency of using our pronouns.