The Involuntary Firefighter

So, just before I left for WisCon, I received a notice that my fundraiser to get me to WorldCon in August had been put on hold. It’s fixed now; no action required by anybody, thank you.

It was a form message explaining GoFundMe’s position and telling me the best practices for transparency (say who you’re from, your relationship to the beneficiary of the fundraiser, how the money will be used, etc.) I expanded the text of my campaign’s profile page a bit to make sure I was fulfilling all their bullet points and sent a reply back to indicate this had been done. I also acknowledged that the name on my bank account was not the name I used in my campaign, explaining that 1) I am trans and 2) I am widely known by the name I used, and that the people targeted by the campaign were people who know who I am, not internet strangers.

I assumed—hoped—that would be the end of it.

Yesterday, minutes before our plane for WisCon was scheduled to start boarding, I received a non-form reply. They had received complaints that I was fundraising when I had—the complaints said—been granted a “full scholarship” to WorldCon, including not just admission but lodging, travel, and even a loaded prepaid debit card for my incidental expenses.

Can you imagine? I don’t think even the guests of honor get handed same-as-cash money for whatever their heart desires, but someone out there in the wilds of the internet imagined I would be granted this boon, or at least thought it a credible lie.

Now, I should emphasize again: this is sorted out. No one needs to talk to WorldCon or GoFundMe or anyone else about this on my behalf. I really want to emphasize this because yesterday, when I asked on Twitter who would be a good person to contact at WorldCon if I needed them to verify anything, at least one random Twitter person I don’t even really know took it upon herself to contact them herself.

That was unnecessary and a bit embarrassing. I told her when she asked me if I had “heard back from them” that I hadn’t reached out, as I was in transit and did not yet even know if WorldCon had been named as the entity supposedly footing my bills. I had just been asking for contact info so I could move ASAP if GoFundMe got back to me and confirmed I would need it, but this person apparently took my reply as “do it for me”, rather than “that would be premature”.

She was still talking to people nominally on my behalf and sending me updates about her progress after I had announced that the whole thing was cleared up and resolved. So, I’m really sorry to anyone involved in WorldCon who was stuck fielding inquiries from people regarding a situation I’m sure they had no knowledge of.

Lesson learned: when you’re dealing with something like this, even the people who are theoretically on your side can be draining to deal with. To make sure that everyone is getting a clear picture, you have to give the same information over and over again. I don’t know if anyone took it upon themselves to complain to GoFundMe over this, but I really hope they didn’t. Anything that takes up the time and attention of their (vaguely-Orwellian-named but ultimately not that bad) “customer happiness team” means they have less resources to process and resolve cases like thus.

But this is the thing that this kind of harassment does: it eats your time, your attention, and energy.

Before I got that notice, I knew how I was going to spend my day: roughing up and refining an open letter to Marvel about their creative decisions regarding Captain America being a secret fascist agent (I disagree, and think it is an affront to his Jewish creators and victims of fascism everywhere). Instead I was wrapped up in this. Even after it was resolved, I just felt drained. I’d lost the focus I’d had on my intended goal.

Now, my travel fund got some positive attention out of this, it’s true. But spoiler warning: I’ve never been that worried about my ability to earn $1,800 for this before August. I am a veteran crowdfunder and if I didn’t think there would be sufficient demand for my presence at WorldCon to pull this off, I wouldn’t have bothered. The only thing up in the air was the airfare, since the longer I had to wait to buy plane tickets the more expensive they would become. So I added incentives geared towards knocking that one out of the park immediately (it worked) and then it was my intention to relax and let the thing simmer on the back burner while I focused my attention on promoting other things.

I have a (successful, in the sense that it’s going to print) teespring campaign right now that would actually make me money if people buy it. I’m trying to promote my short stories, in order to attract more people to my Patreon. I have a thunderclap I need people to join to help me do so, something even people without the money to spare can do. I’ve been trying to draw attention to the e-anthology I helped put together to benefit a beloved friend and important member of the spec poetry community. I have a lot of stuff going on, a lot of stuff I could be working on or drawing attention to, but because I had to deal with this, it takes away from all of those things both in terms of where my energy goes and what people know about me.

The victimizing jerks who do this stuff love to say that their victims “love to define themselves as victims” and then use that accusation to justify further victimization. In the worst cases, they make it literally impossible for their targets to function, impacting their livelihoods and lives in huge ways… and then use that impact to justify even more harassment.

Labeling something one does not like as a scam in order to disrupt its operations and then pointing to its disruption as evidence that it was a scam is… well, it’s a scam itself, and one that has emerged as a choice tactic for these mobs. Why is Feminist Frequency so slow to produce videos? Scam! Why has the Arkh Project not progressed beyond the initial fundraiser for concept art? Scam! It’s a great way to not just throw a wrench in the works but draw in new recruits to keep the machine going. I am sure that for the rest of my life, every time I try to raise attention and money for a project, people will be repeating the story of how I supposedly got people to give me money for a con that everybody knows I was going to for free.

It’s a pretty simple principle: it’s easier to start fires than it is to fight them. For a minimum investment of time and energy, harassing trolls can burn down a good portion of someone’s life. They can take away funding, close off avenues of support, and even just cause time and resources to be wasted dealing with the havoc they’ve caused.

If you’re not in the situation yourself, it’s maybe easy to look at it from the outside and say, “Ignore it! They’re just looking for attention!” But they aren’t. Not in the positive sense that they want to receive your attention. What they want is to take your attention away from whatever would otherwise be receiving it. They want you to be running around putting out their fires while they sit back and laugh.

And if you ignore a fire long enough… sure, yeah, it will go away. But in the time it takes to do so, it might very well burn down your life.

None of this is meant to take away from the gratitude I feel for the support I received. But if you want to really stick it to the people who tried to upset my applecart? The best thing you can do isn’t throwing extra money at my WorldCon trip. I am confident that’s happening. It’s a foregone conclusion at this point that it will be fully funded by August. The best thing you can do is help me to not be defined as “the person whose WorldCon fundraiser was briefly disrupted by trolls”, by clicking those links above or the ones on the sticky “Featured Post” on the front of my blog.

It feels like a gamble saying this, because I know darn well the people who came after me will take it as evidence that they did no real harm, that I’m only profiting by their attacks, and this will be used to justify further attacks. They will lie—probably while insisting it is “SJWs” like me who always lie—to their followers and fellow travelers, saying that this appeal proves that I made the whole thing up. I

don’t care. Whatever I do, they will twist to fit their narrative. Therefore, there’s no reason for me to let their implicit threats modify my behavior.