I strongly suspect there is a word -- or maybe even a whole field of study -- for the phenomenon of learning of a possible condition or state of being, which in turn allows one to seek that condition for oneself. I did not, for example, know that one could wear a theatrical and dashing 19th century vintage military coat whilst writing, until I saw the fictional Jo March do exactly that in the most recent Little Women. (And no, I have not yet tracked down an equivalent garment for myself, but NOT FOR LACK OF TRYING.)

Similarly, this piece introduced me to a form of conflict whose existence I had never remotely suspected, and I am grateful for the lesson, even if my desire to incorporate a similar form into my life and/or close relationships will likely prove much harder to satisfy than my quest for a Writing Jacket (tm).

Relatedly, I am acutely aware of how much I've benefitted from various corners of the Twitterverse, where I've had the opportunity to witness the intellectual labor of and learn from more scholars than I can count. This is a dreadfully on-the-nose example, but it's the one that comes forcefully to mind: The first time I saw the term "cisgendered" was on Twitter. Because I sitting in my own living room, with the time and space to privately experience my own discomfort, and the psychological safety to investigate without embarrassment, I was able to learn and modify my understanding of the world.

In fact, I think that was one of the experiences that taught me how to truly learn -- not just memorize or performatively regurgitate, but integrate new information into my personal body of knowledge -- which is a particularly humiliating discovery for someone who majored in philosophy. [blush emoji x a billion]

Because the universe has a sense of humor, I've since had a front row seat when people I know and respect have first encountered a similarly unfamiliar-to-them concept. I had tremendous compassion for the waves of anger, disbelief, scorn and confusion they went through on their way to comprehension, because I feel certain I would have had the exact same reaction if I'd first been confronted by the limits of my education in public and in front of witnesses.

(I've had that experience before, and will absolutely have it again one of these days. I still want to fake my own death when I think of the day someone corrected my pronunciation of "verisimilitude," and that mistake only exposed the sixth grade education of my grandparents and the subsequently constricted intellectual curiosity of my parents. Also, that I grew up in a time before dictionaries could talk. (And to be fair, "VERY-sim-ill-todd" isn't a bad guess.))

I say all this by way of explaining that I am braver, more comfortable admitting my mistakes and apologizing for them, more willing to listen and more aware of my limitations, due in no small part to the presence of Prof. Lavery and her fellow academics on Twitter. I am a better teacher, a more useful mentor and a more thoughtful colleague.

But as grateful as I am, none of this is worth enduring even 30 seconds of harassment, of any stripe, on any platform. And, fwiw, valuing your own safety -- by limiting your time on Twitter, by making comments open only to paid subscribers, or by any other means you deem appropriate -- is itself a lesson in boundaries and self-care.

And also? It's yet another thing I had to witness in order to understand it was something I wanted for myself.

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I LOVED reading this conversation! I have had a much less eloquent version of it several times with my husband. I have zero internet fame, but at times I will expend a lot of time and energy engaging with people online who are probably not arguing in good faith. My stance has always been that it's not that my opponents are persuadable - usually they clearly have no interest in that - but that it's horrible for, say, a racist post on our local NextDoor to sit there with no dissenters. I know everyone else remaining quiet doesn't necessarily mean they agree - probably most just have no stomach for internet conflict, which is more than fair! But I am good at it, even if it is not good for me. Alas, I too have no way of budgeting a reasonable amount of time and energy to spend on these things, so I've mostly quit. Unless I really can't.

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I appreciate this. This is a genuinely thoughtful, necessary conversation, carried very lovingly.

I'm not on Twitter, and I guess I tend to think that there's nothing much to say on Twitter that can't be said better elsewhere.

Even Grace's positions, I have referenced and shared her articles in Foreign Policy and LA Review of Books ("Grad School as Conversion Therapy.") They were clarifying and useful for advocacy here in my hometown and my university. Especially the right of trans students to be gendered by their own designation, and also against housing discrimination.

But, I can't imagine citing or referring to a tweet. Even in conversation. Just my 2cents, I think Grace does write persuasively. I am just among the 70% of Americans who don't use Twitter, so I don't/wouldn't see anything she writes there.

💜 Keep up the good work.

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One caveat to all this is Danny, as a man you inherited mountains of male privilege in which you don’t have to defend yourself to same degree or experience the endless hate that is saved up by millennia of patriarchal oppression that dear Grace is up against like a tsunami. Roxane Gay and Debbie Millman have a smaller version of this argument in which Roxane would tend to get bogged down in Twitter wars and be feeling defeated being a Black, fat, gay, feminist writer made Roxane much more of a target than Debbie. And Debbie would beg Roxane- please join me over here IRL. I know Grace your heart is big as the ocean and your courage in standing up to the Ortbergs was profound and the whole way through I kept thinking Danny could never have navigated those treacherous waters so seemingly smoothly without your vocal -I got your back and ain’t afraid of these Christian crazy bullies. Grace I have so much respect that your voice is safe harbor for endless scared kids who don’t hear themselves in a world that says they shouldn’t exist. I hope you feel some of that fierce love coming back to you, from all of us that love you and have your back and will stand for you forever. Enjoy PTown Luvs. 💛Ida

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I thank both you, Danny and Grace, for entering this conversation onto the "record" - whatever that means wrt to the Internet now. It is such a gift to see you both being slow and kind in our view. Your discussions of the nuance of conflict always leave me with a deep appreciation for the collaborative work of solving the challenges of life in relationship with someone you desire/aspire to spend all your days with.

My comment is more of a tangential outrage on your behalf: I find the idea that strangers view a relationship from one angle and feel STRONGLY that they can claim someone is being abused absolutely enraging. It's infuriating for people to go around crying "abuse!" for many reasons:

a) these claims are based entirely upon what interactions happen between two people in public, when most of an intimate relationship does not happen in view of strangers

b) how! could! you know!?! there are many relationships that would appear to be healthy that are in fact abusive, but that certainly requires more than a surface level understanding of the power dynamics between two people in an intimate relationship! If you don't know someone well enough that you'd go over for dinner to their house or they'd come to yours, I don't know that you have even 5% of the information you need to make such a high stakes judgement!

c) I feel like the kind of people who go around making pronouncements about the health of strangers' relationships are EXACTLY the people who also say "why didn't they leave" and victim blame survivors in their own lives. Why is this Venn diagram a circle?

d) it is just a hurtful waste of the precious resources of your relationship (time, trust, energy, etc.) to have to defend against accusations of abuse that are hurled in the worst faith.

Thank you again for this chat as well as allowing me to post this tirade against injustice on your behalf - I see so often that queer folks' relationship health is a matter for public scrutiny while (tw: domestic / intimate partner violence) the news that a professional athlete has thrown his girlfriends down the stairs was but a flash in the pan. Maddening!!

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Arguing to find a solution rather than to persuade is something I’ve only learned to do recently. It really has made my life better. Thanks for this conversation!

Like Lucy M, I also suspect that Twitter will prove to be a quite ephemeral record of what one has said compared to articles and books. Just an information management hunch.

Lately I’ve been collecting a small supply of songs from the 60s and 70s by activists. It helps me a lot to hear records of people saying the same things that get said now and people huff and puff and say it was a different time and how can they know anything now? I don’t think it was actually as different a time as people who enjoy the way things are want to make out.

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This dialogue is amazing. And I must admit that I had trouble at times following Grace on Twitter simply because there was so MUCH back-and-forth with the TERF du jour, be it Linehan or Stock, and it wasn't good for my emotional well-being.

But I do love this sentiment: "Often the people who most need advice and care are those least liable to treat caregivers respectfully." It's something I try to remember when dealing with, say, hardline Catholics and Protestants who angrily spout Bible verses every time anyone says anything nice about queer people of faith. Those kinds of reactions that make scrolling through comments on Facebook, Twitter, and now TikTok such a nightmare.

I don't know how you manage it, Grace, but you and Danny are both amazing, and that's all that really matters in the end.

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