Twitter likes to recommend niche trends to me, based on the fact that I am gay. It — it here being the cold, conflict-loving lizard brain of an algorithm — has also figured out that TERFs are good for business. Is it a TERF thing, I wondered to myself as I tried to click the AFAB trend on Twitter. My finger was too cold, though, so after remembering an old boss who at 88 would chuckle “it’s because I’m dead” when her iPhone would not respond to her touch, warmed my undead nonbinary flesh on my mug of coffee and successfully pressed down upon the trending topic, summoning this Tweet which I immediately shared in our editorial Slack channel with “I think I’m gonna pass out.”
LOOK AT WHAT MY COWORKER THOUGHT AFAB MEANT pic.twitter.com/uMIhDJwvPn
— e (@dolltwtghost) October 27, 2022
Then I found out it’s something about an AFAB transfem discourse that started just before October 26, or Intersex Awareness Day. And that it is in fact NOT a TERF thing but is about a particular gender identity, of which we all know there are myriad and many. I scoured the tweet threads until I found one that made sense to me, so, here it is for you, friends. It’s a whole thread in case you want to click it and read through:
To anyone who has seen this and had a knee jerk reaction: this is an identity created by intersex people, for intersex people. AFAB does not mean “grew up perceived as female or a woman” nor does it mean anything about the hormones their body produces. https://t.co/0TvsgyVKwn
— ᎠᎵᏣᏃᏍᎦ/Alitsanosga🍓🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️♿️ (@spaceysoupy) October 24, 2022
As someone whose gender and gender expression is best described as twisty-wisty, or potentially moon-influenced as though it were literally a fluid (apologies to those with gas or solid-based gender situations), the concept of having a certain assignment and then having a trans relationship to the gender expression typically conflated with said assignment makes a lot of sense to me. Ultimately, though, this is a story about the hellsite known at Twitter dot com, a website I am personally not very good at, and about inter-fighting and specifically transmisogyny within already marginalized communities.
How was I any different from the people who made their bad faith assessments out loud, I have to ask? After all, I clicked on the tag looking for a fight, expecting J.K. Rowling had said something else immeasurably harmful. Instead, I found three distinct things: sober explanations about transmisogyny and perisexism, people tearing each other apart and also defending themselves and hurt feelings and discourse and such, and some clever little jokes. It made me further reflect on something I was doing yesterday, which was revisiting Riese’s incredible interview with Sarah Schulman, author of Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair.
“On the internet, there’s not much room for nuance. Within social justice communities, there’s this sense that there are bad guys and good guys, and we’re the good guys, and it’s our job to inform the entirety of “good guys” the Right Way To Think and Act… even within the queer feminist left, so many different approaches to things, and we should be able to engage with them and consider them and even disagree vehemently about them without resorting to shunning, lashing-out, taking material out of context and wielding it like a weapon, name-calling, massive overstatements of harm and projecting our anger at the world onto each other because well, underneath all that is a lot of love.”
And while I do have to do things like check trending Twitter tags for work sometimes, I do also sometimes wish everyone were required to get off the app and have a book club instead.
But, I love you, and so I will leave you with some of my favorite little jokes that sprang up from the AFAB Twitter trend:
Neither AFAB nor AMAB, but a secret third thing (ACAB)
— Jasmine('s booOOOOooobs hurt 👻) (@Ranting_Trans) October 26, 2022
Not AMAB, not AFAB, but A CRAB and therefore the most powerful. pic.twitter.com/2RDFX9hV3Z
— 👻Dead Pirate Roberts💀 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️🇧🇸 (@FinntasticMrFox) October 26, 2022
amab? afab? no im ahab. noww wwheres that fuckin wwhale
— eridan twweets (@eridanebooks) October 19, 2022