“Pretty Little Liars” Episode 611 Recap: Angels With Dirty Faces

The worst advice I ever got was to not write that Ezra Fitz is a monster. “You’ll piss off the people who work on Pretty Little Liars and read and tweet your stuff,” was the reason, and it was a terrible reason, and so I wrote (continuously) that Ezra Fitz is a monster. It did the opposite of alienating me from (most of) the people who work on Pretty Little Liars. And to the great credit of their creative team, the harshest criticism I ever leveled at the show — in my recap of last summer’s finale — only opened up their world to me even more. Between season 6A and 6B, I talked with dozens of people who make PLL a reality: writers, producers, directors, publicists, crew members, even the wife of someone who drives a golf cart on the Warner Brothers backlot. They reached out to me over and over with one message: Thank you for loving this show as much as we love making it, and for forcing us to acknowledge its place in the larger cultural conversation.

Well, no. That wasn’t the only message. Not by a mile, really. It was the main message. But also I got to sit across tables and talk on the phone and email and message with these folks about how gosh dang much they love making stories, and how important it is for them to get it right, and how it pains them to get it wrong. They want to do good and I know they want to do good because they have shown up again and again for me, both personally and professionally, to offer support and encouragement and candid explanations for how their particular sausage gets made. I watch them, day after day, advocate for politics and policies that move forward a progressive worldview, that make queer lives better.

I’ve been writing this recap for five months. I’ve been writing it since the moment I found out PLL had chosen to kill off Charlotte, grappling incessantly with the knowledge of the goodness of the folks who made that decision and the reality that is was a deeply, irrevocably damaging one that was going to contribute to a culture of pain and fear for my transgender sisters. 12 trans women had been murdered in the U.S. in 2015 when I started writing the Pretty Little Liars 610 recap; 13 trans women had been murdered in the U.S. by the time I finished writing the Pretty Little Liars 610 recap, just ten hours after I started. In total, 23 trans women were murdered last year, most of them black women, which means — as Mey and I pointed out in our end-of-year piece Violence and Visibility: Transgender Women On TV in 2015 — that we wrote more obituaries for trans women in 2015 than recaps for any single show we covered.

Here’s another thing true thing we wrote in that article: “Not all visibility is good visibility. The three main tropes used when writing about trans women are: 1) That trans women are deceivers, liars, and mentally unstable. 2) That trans women are acceptable targets of violence. And 3) That it’s tolerable to misname and misgender trans women (which, of course, dehumanizes them and provides justification for violence against them).”

Those things, those tropes, PLL has done them all now, every untrue stereotype about trans women, every untrue cliche, and they murdered Charlotte too. “He, she, it!” Hanna called her. “He, she, it!” Pretty Little Liars official Twitter declared just days after the summer finale. No, Hanna didn’t know Charlotte was trans at the time, but the writer who penned that dialogue sure did. “He, she, it” was already part of the show’s cultural DNA. “He, she, it” is why trans women are murdered in real life.

There was a time when Pretty Little Liars helped create the most fun and most safe place for queer women to participate in TV culture. The #BooRadleyVanCullen community that sprang up around watching the show together is unlike anything I have ever been a part of. Not only did I meet some of my dearest and most important real life friends because of it, but also it became very obvious that the queer women who participated in that conversation were speaking to a show that was listening to them, and the show was talking back, both on-screen and in real life. We’ve never had anything like that. Ever, ever, ever. Never, truly never, have we ever had something like that in our lives. I see now that it wasn’t sustainable, but when we were in the throes of it, I couldn’t have predicted the way the culture was going to shift so dramatically under our feet.

If you pulled out my memories of the last six years, since this show began, and swirled them around and poked them apart in Dumbledore’s Pensieve, what you would see on one side is a collective feminist voice uniting around speaking up against sexual predators, pushing back against the entitlement of straight white male privilege, demanding accountability for police officers who exploit women, crying out against the devaluation of black bodies, and a growing awareness of the horrific violence committed against trans women in this country. And you would see Pretty Little Liars stepping in those holes just as real life events and circumstances caused our voices to coalesce around those causes.

And on the other side of the Pensieve you would see pieces coming off the chess board in Rosewood as the creative team and the network and the studio hear the crowds of young girls sending up their rallying cries for Ezra and Aria, Caleb and Hanna, Toby and Spencer, and as those decision makers watch the Teen Choice Awards and People’s Choice Awards roll in. You would see the feints at allowing the men on PLL to face consequences or be bad guys or play a part in the larger real-stakes narrative of the show — but instead you would watch a black bisexual women be killed to advance Emily’s plot, a black queer woman be killed to advance Aria’s plot, only one original love interest written off the show (the lesbian one), a queer character introduced as a love interest for Emily for the sole purpose of serving as the answer to nearly every evil question, a trans women revealed as the ultimate bad guy, and now a trans woman murdered to advance the plot of everyone else.

On a show anchored by the narratives of five women, the men were rendered off-limits; the only place for real narrative consequences was the place that was queer.

At the PLL New York Comic Con panel and at the PLL Paley Center event this year, I watched thousands of young women cry for Ezria like the Beatles, and I just wanted to grab them all up in a hug like I did when I was forcing my feral kittens to learn to like human touch and yell, “I hate Ezra because I love you I hate Ezra because I love you I hate Ezra because I love you” over and over and over until they understood the real world rape culture ramifications of his continued existence. I wanted to pull in everyone who was outraged about the plot holes after the #SummerOfAnswers and squeeze them until all my love and knowledge transferred itself into their bodies and their outrage centered on the fact that trans women were being killed at a rate of once every other week and the Charlotte reveal was going to continue to perpetuate stereotypes that lead to trans women being feared and maligned and murdered in real life.

It was a mind-blowing experience being at those events. I have never felt more like an alien, hurled down to earth to participate in a society that looks like me but is not me. (And I’ve felt like an alien a lot in my life.)

You know what else I wanted to do while I was there, though? I wanted to introduce them to our Trans Editor, Mey Rude, who is one of my very best friends and one of the warmest and most generous women I have ever met in my entire life. I’ve known Charlotte was going to die since almost the moment the summer finale was over, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell Mey about it until two days ago. When was the right time? After she finished writing another obituary for a murdered trans woman? When she had finished writing about Houston’s Prop. 1 taking away the rights of trans women to use women’s restrooms? When she had finished writing about the horrific trans-themed episode of Law & Order last year, or the way Ryan Murphy wrote another incredibly harmful trans woman, this time on American Horror Story?

I chased the FedEx truck down the road a couple of weeks ago to get my driver to give me the box of homemade tamales Mey baked and overnighted to me, and as soon as I got back inside in front of my laptop, the new Pretty Little Liars promo poster was here: four sexy women sashaying around town with a dead trans girl in a coffin. Was I supposed to tell Mey about it then, eating the food she cooked for me with love in her very own kitchen? I wanted to introduce Mey to those Pretty Little Liars fans and to everyone who works on the show and I wanted to say, “I love this woman, I love her, she means so much to me, and you are making her life scarier and sadder and more dangerous, do you know? I’m afraid of losing this woman I love if you keep up this thing with Charlotte.”

(What are Ezria fans afraid of, I wonder.)

The main thing Mey Rude and I have in common is we would rather be wrapped in the warm blanket of stories we love than feel outraged and heartbroken about stories that hurt us, any day of the week.

And so here we are: Good people have made some harmful decisions on a show that has meant more to me than … well, you know how much it has meant to me, and if you don’t, I’ve written about half a million words about it on the internet, and you can see it for yourself. “It’s just a story” is a lazy lie and no writer really believes that. Oh, they’ll say it to try to sidestep responsibility, but writers become writers because they have been deeply affected by the power of story, because they have known the magic and they want to wield it. I’ve looked into the tear-streaked faces of some of the people who tell this show’s stories, fallible and full of love, and they mean something to me too. I have touched their hands with my hands and thrown my arms around them because they did change my world. Oh, they changed my world for the better! I know you because of Pretty Little Liars and that’s how you know me; what a gift!

Humans needs stories as much as they need air and water, and minorities most of all. We need to see happy endings to know happy endings are possible. We need to see someone form constellations out of the unrelated points of light in our life so we can make sense of who we are. And for a very long time, Pretty Little Liars has been that to me, to so many of us. It’s not the only show on the block anymore. (All the queer shows on TV can’t be contained to a single block anymore.) I don’t know if the two sides of reality in my Pensieve can even be reconciled. This show isn’t written for me; I was too old to be a Becomer when even when the pilot aired a thousand years ago (I don’t even know what DryBar is), but I think maybe what this world needs is less of queer critics boycotting things and more of queer critics continuing the conversation about things that trouble them.

Maybe. Maybe that’s naive. Maybe it’s wise. Maybe that’s what I’ll do for now. I don’t care about scoring points, that’s not who I am. I don’t care about Calling Things Out. I believe, truly I believe, that most storytellers aren’t out to get us. I think many of them live in a bubble in Los Angeles and are doing the best they can with the information they’ve exposed themselves to, trapped between what’s good and right, and what sells shampoo. I want stories to work their magic inside of me and to work their magic on the world beyond my reach. I want to love my stories with a wide open heart. I want my stories to love me back. I want to talk to Pretty Little Liars like I always have done, and I want them to talk back. I want us to understand each other. We already have this magical translating parrot here; maybe she can lead the way.

Five Years Later

Alison DiLaurentis

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Where I hoped she’d be after the time jump: Settled comfortably into her queer identity and waiting patiently for Emily to return to Rosewood to show her a thing or two she learned in college. Occasionally pulling a heist with Mona for old time’s sake, wearing masks of each other’s faces and sometimes masks of their own faces, once in a while, that mask of Emily’s face. Running a chartered plane courier service up and down the eastern seaboard in her very own twin prop. Co-pilot: Pepe the Gravedigger.

Where she actually is after the time jump: Teaching at Rosewood High, drifting off into memories of her former gayness while reading Shakespeare to her class. Visiting with Charlotte whenever she can and failing to notice that Charlotte’s doctor is another authority figure doubling as a fucking creep in her life. Advocating for Charlotte to be released from the hospital and loving her sister, loving her sister, loving her sister. Mourning her too, while her friends get drunk on Hanna’s dime at the new Radley Sanatarium bar and fail to notice she’s been murdered.

Spencer Hastings

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Where I hoped she’d be after the time jump: Gay. Gay and wearing suits and doing a Slytherin job while pretending it’s a Ravenclaw job. Supporting the independent political aspirations of both of her parents in the hopes of parlaying their future influence and name recognition into her own career on The Hill. Plans to be President of the United States of America by the time she’s 37.

Where she actually is after the time jump: All of those things except the gay parts (supposedly).

Emily Fields

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Where I hoped she’d be after the time jump: Planning her wedding to Paige McCullers and working on her memoir (Glass In My Hair: An Autobiography of Acting Normal Bitch) while Paige trains with the U.S. Olympic swim team. Tapas on the regular with Missy Franklin, and sometimes whole pizzas too. Late night texts and inside jokes with Hanna, a perfected empanada recipe, a plan to teach and coach swimming when she finishes her MFA.

Where she actually is after the time jump: Working in a hotel bar, serving Mai Tais to tourists. Addicted to the pills Pam’s not counting. One dead dad.

Aria Montgomery

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Where I hoped she’d be after the time jump: Living in a loft in Dumbo, doing her Art, riding a unicycle around Brooklyn to buy artisanal toothpicks and toilet paper from men sporting handlebar mustaches and slim-fit, knee-length pantaloons. Thinking about how she should have kissed Spencer once, twice, three times at least, back in high school, and wondering how long it would take her to pedal her little one-wheeled wonder on down to Washington D.C. The country is ready for a bisexual president, right? Oh, the mural she would paint in the Lincoln bedroom! Oh, the photos of decapitated dolls she would hang on the walls in the Queens’ quarters!

Where she actually is after the time jump: Publishing books and unafraid to say she’s still super traumatized by being stalked and preyed upon for many years of her teenage existence. No, no, not the stalking and preying her teacher did to her. That guy’s fine. All he did was seduce her when she was a child, and follow her around and record her every move with hidden cameras in every nook of every cranny she ever frequented. No, it’s Charlotte’s torture that still gets to her (quite rightly) on the red line when she’s riding home from work to her miserable lonely apartment. (Not Ezra’s torture, though; let’s be clear about that. He loved her!)

Hanna Marin

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Where I hoped she’d be after the time jump: Starring in The Devil Wears Prada in real life.

Where she actually is after the time jump: Starring in The Devil Wears Prada in real life. Plus, substituting gin for milk when she douses her bowl of Cheerios every morning.

Mona Vanderwaal

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Where I hoped she’d be after the time jump: Working for the CIA, doing black ops missions around the world, singlehandedly destroying terrorism and keeping the global markets in check. Dozens of passports at her disposal, billions of dollars, shimmying up walls in Prague and sliding down ropes into trap doors in Bangladesh. Sending back a thousand-dollar bottle of wine because it’s not good enough and listening to Hamilton on her iPod while practicing kickboxing and thinking fondly of the time she stabbed Kung Fu Jake in his feet.

Where she actually is after the time jump: Dogging Spencer’s steps in D.C., but owning the Slytherin nature of her career, hoping at once to best Spencer and get into Spencer’s power suit pants. Planning for the inevitability of being Spencer’s White House Chief of Staff.

Ezra Fitz

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Where I hoped he’d be after the time jump: In jail.

Where he actually is after the time jump: Wallowing around in his manpain like a pig in mud, completely befuddled by the fact that bad things happen to women in this world, despite having surveilled the Liars for years and witnessing them being stuffed into boxes and run under by cars and locked in clown houses and doll houses and fun houses and house houses and murdered with regularity. His girlfriend Nicole was kidnapped when he was doing the Lord’s work down in South America, just building houses for the impoverished like the Great White Hero he always has been, just being a Good Guy, not deserving anything bad, and she was kidnapped. So if you understand that, ARIA, why don’t you go ahead and explain it. Some people have real problems.

Toby Cavanaugh and Caleb Rivers

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Where I hoped they’d be after the time jump: Married.

Where they actually are after the time jump: Engaged.

Charlotte DiLaurentus

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Where I hoped she’d be after the time jump: Treated with dignity, afforded the same opportunities for redemption as the rich, handsome, straight white men on this show.

Where she actually is after the time jump: Dead.

Season 6B (and beyond?) is a whodunit, as in: Who killed Charlotte DiLaurentis? The Liars had planned to bounce after her trial, but Lorenzo ambushes them outside the funeral and tells them they’ll need to stay for questioning. Where are they now? Where they’ve always been, but with disposable income and different hair.  Maybe they’ve learned to turn on lights when they enter a room. Maybe they know how to work window blinds now. Is it 2016 or is it 2021? Because by 2021, I firmly believe every woman will be gay. I also firmly believe Sara Harvey will be revealed as nothing more than a figment of our collective imagination by then. Hope breeds eternal misery, but I do it anyway.


Thank you to Nicole (@PLLBigA) for the screencaps and for always helping me stay grounded. 

If you want to buy a #BooRadleyVanCullen t-shirt, with 100% of the profit going directly to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project to help trans folks, you can do that here

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1038 articles for us.

117 Comments

  1. Thank you Heather for continuing the discussion. I found you and your writing through Brittana and Glee and started watching PLL at your suggestion. In the beginning, watching another hot lesbian couple, Emily and Maya, was fun, but as we came to understand the real relationship is the friendship between the girls. The saw is constant in my mind between the suspension of disbelief, which is necessary for submersion and enjoyment of a plot and our group experience that representation matters. Mey’s input is invaluable here, but the weird thing for me is that I don’t see CeCe as transgendered no matter what the story says. It’s as if this story just went off the rails. I’ll continue to watch because of the girls, #BooRadleyVanCullen, and you, but the actual story quit making any sense awhile ago.

  2. It took me 2 days to read this glorious and gorgeously written article, and then to sift through the comments. And in case you are still checking the comments, I just want to say thank you to Heather and to all the staff that has taken the time and emotional energy to comment and explain themselves. Heather, you are a angel sent from heaven and you are so appreciated by many. Thank you for pouring yourself into this episode’s article. I seriously hope that you are taking care of yourself (not reading these comments is one way to do that…so I hope you aren’t reading this). Sleep, take a bubble bath, read some comics, play with the Bobbi’s! Thank you thank you.

  3. Although I don’t agree with Heather’s & AS’s characterization of 6×10-6×11 (I see CeCe as more of a positive character like Mona and her death as a martyrdom and a reflection of the horribleness of anti-trans hate crimes), it’s such an important perspective to explore. I had been looking all over the internet for a good explanation of why the LGBT community is angry about the Reveal. Pretty much every T.V. recap website mentioned that it painted a problematic and negative portrait of a trans person, but I didn’t understand what they meant because they didn’t talk about how life imitates art. Reading Heather’s articles and the comments has taught me a lot about trans tropes and how not to step on toes should I ever [knowingly] meet a trans person. Also, as a cis bisexual POC (married to a cis hetero male POC who crossdresses on occasion), PLL is so important to me because it’s the only show where bisexuality is completely normalized and even non-bi characters have some bi-curiousness that they’re not afraid to explore in a respectful way (respectful as in not the straight/bi girls making out at the club to impress straight guys trope). Emily kissing Nate, Shana flirting with Noel and Lucas in the bonus scenes for 3×13, Mona kissing Ali on the cheek and holding Hanna’s hand. I want to thank Heather and everyone at AS for the PLL recaps, especially since recapping it of late has been very difficult for you guys. I hope you can accept my gratitude despite my dissenting opinion about CeCe.

  4. So…autostraddle’s decision to maintain an engagement with PLL (albeit a critical one) is one thing. Seems in large part to be a question of strategy: e.g., what would be the most effective intervention/response to the egregious level of transphobia in the show?

    I don’t think there are straightforward or immediately obvious answers. People-including trans people-are going to have different opinions about how it should go.

    What concerns me is climate reflected in many of the comments as this discussion is had. How can we respectfully hold the feelings of trans women who are reacting in anger at the choice to stay engaged with the show? That reaction is legitimate and valid and should be met with respect and support. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to feel the same way about it. But it does mean there should not be a pack of cis people defensively jumping in to silence the angry reaction by calling the trans woman rude, tone policing, cis-splaining about how she just doesn’t “get it”, etc.

    Fellow cis people, we need to get out of our feelings here. This is a discussion about transphobia. Yet, I think most of the energy is flowing towards comforting the cis writer (no offense) about her effort and perceived distress at receiving criticism. That dynamic is transphobia at work in our community here.

    The way forward towards justice with regards to addressing PLL is unclear (as is often the case), tactically speaking. Autostraddle obviously has made a decision, as it had to, to put at least one foot in front of the other in *some* direction. But I’m calling on the fellow cis people here to just skip the offended feelings, please.

    And autostraddle, how about responding to the pushback like “We see your point. We hear your experience in being hurt by our choice. We are sorry. We decided to do this recap knowing there was no way forward that would hurt no one. But we see your pain, and you matter to us…and we will think about you next time we have to make a choice.”

    This oppressive shit is complicated and painful as a general situation. Well meaning cis folks inevitably hurt trans folks and that damn well should be uncomfortable for the cis folks if we can muster up the empathy we owe our siblings. Trying to get out of that (comparatively minor) pain and discomfort by defensively justifying our hurtful choices–even if the only choices available are all hurtful to someone–is nothing more than flexing our privilege.

    Standing in the sadness it takes to recognize someone we hurt is not going to kill us. But bombarding those people when they are brave enough to speak up only makes an abominable transphobic situation worse.

    • !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      This, so much Brooke. After spending several hours commenting again and again on this piece, I had a conversation with a person who is not emotionally invested in Autostraddle and it re-awakened every frustrated feeling I was left with at the end of my last exchange on this piece.

      It is one thing to say “We have devoted a great deal of time and energy to thinking about how to address this. This is the decision we have made, with input from multiple editors and readers/members. We recognize that not everyone will agree with it and want to acknowledge that and are open to conversation about how and why we made this choice and what it means.”

      That is NOT how editors or readers responded to this. Trans women who disagreed were told that their reading of Autostraddle is incorrect (a majority-cis publication is not always going to be a place that prioritizes and centers trans women, especially trans women of color because we all fuck up all the time even when we are trying hard not to) or that they were being rude/responding with vitriol which is such fucked-up tone policing.

      We literally have folks in here who are more concerned about the feelings of a cis writer receiving valid pushback on her writing than about trans women who named this as another example for them of being excluded/unvalued in a space. THAT IS NOT OK.

      I have thought about writing my own post on this because there is just so much here that is screaming about all the patterns of thoughtless transphobia those of us who are cis people perpetuate every day. And that is as much (or more) about the response of our community members to this piece as it is to the original piece itself.

      • I’m really glad both of you made these comments, because the conversation I saw happening under this article up until this point was really concerning me. I think it is so important to acknowledge and make space for anger in the face of violence, whether that violence is committed physically or through media representation, etc. And it is important to recognize that all trans women do not speak with one voice or have the same view of a certain TV show or any particular action Autostraddle takes. I think you’re both right that the comment section of this article, including comments made by editors/writers/staff, did not validate the feelings (including anger) of disappointed readers, most importantly trans women, or make space for dissent. Instead AS became defensive.

        I totally get that Heather is really personally invested in this show and in writing about it and has a complex relationship with the show creators at this point. As people have pointed out, AS is a place where staff often grapple with their personal feelings about complex issues including pop culture and readers find meaning in that writing. This is not a debate about an individual’s character, be it Heather’s or Riese’s or Mey’s or anyone else’s, nor is it a debate of whether writing about PLL is categorically right or wrong. I think some people believe that’s the conversation going on here, but I think that is a misperception, which is why I really appreciate what you both are saying about stepping out of our own feelings of defensiveness/discomfort to allow for other people’s honest reactions. There should be space on this website for trans women in the AS community to disagree with Mey and Heather.

        I do think it’s important for people who make mistakes to be given space to change and for cis people to be able to take on some of the work that is often thrown on trans women’s shoulders of “how do we do better, why is this wrong, help us help you.” AS and specifically Heather has decided to do that work with the creators of PLL in this case. Unfortunately it seems like many of the staff and readers feel that decision means that no one should voice any pain or dissent. That because Heather and other staff here are deeply upset that Cece was killed on the show, or because Mey wants to see it written about, it’s not okay to still feel upset. That being upset and commenting about it is vitriolic/a personal attack.

        I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, and I especially want to acknowledge that Riese said we don’t have to agree with this decision or read the recaps. At the same time, I see why the reaction of the AS community to those who are upset at the continued recaps/are choosing not to read them anymore would lead people to believe this is not an environment that is safe to honestly and respectfully talk about our complex reactions to transphobia or try to hold ourselves and our community accountable. Especially staff repeatedly saying that no one else could possibly write about these issues or do as much for queer and trans women seems dismissive if not condescending, although I’m sure that was not the intention and I see where those reactions would come from.

        I haven’t been spending as much time on Autostraddle lately for a variety of reasons, but I am a long time reader/commenter/supporter as well as a PLL viewer. One thing I always loved about AS was that the conversations in AS articles as well as the comments were intelligent, incisive, and centered on socially just ideals. There were definitely controversial stories from time to time, and I’ve certainly seen members of the community strongly disagreeing, but I before I felt that staff and most readers responded well to being ‘called out’ when it happened and made efforts to continue progressing in terms of representation, inclusivity, and constant open-mindedness and learning. But from the way the comments have been looking more recently, I’m afraid that the harshness of the internet has made AS a place where nuanced conversation about social issues is becoming less possible on a grand-scale. That’s really sad for me personally, and I hope I’m wrong about that.

        Ultimately, I defer to trans women about what they feel is appropriate concerning the show and acknowledge the many differing viewpoints about what is right, so I don’t have a problem with AS recapping it or Mey choosing not to write about it herself. Even if I did have a problem with it, obviously AS would not have to do anything about it or place any value in it. I just hope this is still a place where the most marginalized of our queer community can feel safe voicing dissent.That members of the community maybe come back to this article/read y’all’s comments and come to a slightly different conclusion about the most productive ways to validate reader’s feelings and continues to raise trans women’s voices/listen when trans women speak.

        • There is something that’s very rarely (if ever) discussed in activist circles, and it’s the abuse of the respectful, inclusive climate which most social justice groups actively seek to establish. Sometimes members of oppressed and marginalized groups exploit the safe space thus created to go on an anger binge during which all of their legitimate, lifelong anger will get *misdirected* onto an ally/safe person in the absence of a more constructive outlet. This lashing out is inexcusable, and yet it often gets tolerated out of the (relatively more) privileged person’s sense of guilt at occupying the position of (relative) privilege, their compassion exploited and misused in the process.

          Such insatiable rage poured onto someone actively seeking to become a better ally to you and yours is anything but constructive, and the above attacks on Heather have been both personal and vitriolic (the fact that this is not recognized actually worries me most of all; don’t ever let anyone speak to you that way, regardless of the excuse they come up with for doing so!) I can relate to the frustration of being unable to affect the world at large, but this frustration shouldn’t be used as a weapon against those who are actively seeking to be your allies.

          • Yep, as I expected you are the same person who made the “Kick the Ally” comment above.

            I have re-read through this comment section more times than I can count at this point, because I am concerned. No one is using what could actually be called vitriol. There are three or four people who direct frustration at this particular piece and Autostraddle in general for this decision and the way it is approached <—- that last part is particularly significant.

            All of them name specific issues with the piece (things that I noted as well) and the decision. None of them personally insult the editors or the author. All of them address framing/structural issues with the piece (the fact that most of it is about the writer specifically grappling with her feelings about a TV show because she loves and honors trans people and illustrating that through the anecdote of a person she loves who is a trans woman) and criticize the decision to continue covering the show. None of them use ad hominem attacks or hateful language.

            We expect more of our allies because they have named themselves as allies – as ready to listen, acknowledge, think through what we have to say and approach it without defensiveness. In this case, in which defensiveness is the first thing turned to and the very legitimate feelings of frustration are overlooked in the rush to comfort the writer, none of that happened.

            There are literally three people on this thread who have spoken up about our own discomfort regarding the ways in which trans women who disagree with this decision have been spoken over, ignored, and tone-policed. We're not tolerating any shit out of guilt – I'm naming that as a cis woman I am massively fucking uncomfortable with the way we've responded to those women in this thread. I'm naming that every criticism they had of Heather's piece, I also felt, even before I decided to spend hours of my life reading and re-reading this thread.

            I'm naming that "trying" doesn't mean we always get it right and it means we still deserve to be called out or in when we fuck it up – whether it's the decision or how the decision is communicated or how we've responded to it as a community. I don't get to decide I'm someone's ally just because I say I am.

            I keep trying to picture this conversation if we were talking/writing about an early TV show, that in the wake of numerous murders of queer women, was one of the only easily accessible, directed towards young people depictions of a queer woman that they would see.

  5. Okay, enough. This conversation lacks perspective to such a degree that it is laughable. Since Riese and Heather are either too polite or too busy to give it to you, allow me. You are not looking at the sum of Autostraddle’s work for trans women. You are not looking at the collectivity of Heather’s TV writing about trans women. You are not looking at the whole of Heather’s PLL coverage, or even the totality of what Riese, Heather, and Mey have written in these comments. (Not to mention the totality of the way many of these commenters have engaged with Autostraddle’s writers in the past.) While your heart seems to be in the right place, what you are doing is myopically applying Tumblr buzz words to a very tiny piece of an enormous, evolving conversation you refuse to acknowledge or do not know exists. Where were you when AS was posting Trans Awareness Week coverage, every day, from trans women of color? Where were you when a new article went up announcing the death of another black trans woman? Hell, where were you even when Mey and Heather posted their epic analysis of trans women on TV in 2015? Were you there encouraging those trans writers, or asking how you can be a better ally to them? Were you expressing outrage on behalf of those dead women? Did you weep for them? Have you grown a company that makes it a priority to curate content from trans women and actually PAY them for it? Are you in a single comment thread on any other website, where literally not one single writer has expressed outrage over Charlotte’s death?

    What is gained for trans women by this farcical pantomime attacking Riese and Heather? What do you think you have accomplished in the world for trans women by continuing this anguish about a problem that doesn’t even exist?

    Do you really want to DO SOMETHING to help trans women or do you want to just FEEL GOOD about how much more enlightened and honorable you are than the other women who put in the work every day?

    All of these concepts you believe in are honorable, but why don’t you do the hard work of joining us here in the real world where things are not black and white or cut and dry and try to apply what you’ve learned in your 101 classes. You are fighting shadows on the wall of your own imagination when there are real monsters in the world that we could use your help defeating.

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