A very ugly petition hit Change.org on the 4th of November that campaigns around a slogan to "Drop the T."
It asks for 6 major LGBT advocacy groups and publications to separate from the transgender community based on selling points that all amount to gross misrepresentations and willful ignorance. After listing a lot of the usual transphobic fear-mongering, it then goes on to state, "Please note that we are not advocating intolerance or prejudice against the transgender community" in a statement arguing to drop legal, media, and political representation for one of the most marginalized gender, sexual, and romantic minority groups on the planet. Clearly, the author has no idea just how violent of a world trans people live in, and is willfully ignorant of the harm they are causing by drafting this unethical garbage. Luckily, it's no longer the 60s and 4 of the 6 groups petitioned have already responded with resounding support for the transgender community.
I caught upon this petition early, and started to see who had already shared it. Considering the sheer level of ignorance found within this petition, I was expecting to find the usual suspects within the TERF community who openly advocate such harmful, and grossly ignorant views. However, what I had found in my initial searches pointed in a different direction; probably a man in the gay community.
A few days later, I stumble upon the following interview in The Federalist. I will spare you the gritty details of how I identified the individual, but let's move right on to the big unveiling of the transphobe behind the curtain that would have been stained with blood if it were written in decades passed:
The author of this petition is a seasoned gay rights blogger who identifies as left-wing, but with racist, misogynistic, and transphobic views that line him up with the neo-reactionary TERF movement quite well. His name is Will Kohler, a gay rights activist in Covington, KY, United States. He owns a blog known as Back2Stonewall. (Facebook Page.)
I will refer to the information referenced from The Federalist interview as simply "Petitioner" and when I refer to Will Kohler, I am referring to his actions which are not intended to be anonymous. Petitioner mentioned that he majored in History in college. Will Kohler graduated from New York University with a major in History. Also, Will Kohler appears to be middle-aged. Petitioner writes that he wanted to attend the Stonewall 25th Anniversary March in New York City back in 1994. Based on his appearance, he would have been slightly older than typical college age around the time of the march.
Mr. Kohler's Twitter account is @Back2Stonewall. It follows Milo Yiannopolis, the neo-reactionary blogger who promoted the petition, and Roseanne Barr the former TV star and TERF. You can also view Mr. Kohler's Disqus profile where you can see he makes trans bashing into quite a hobby.
One can note in the interview, the rather uncommon and ignorant view that Marsha P Johnson was somehow "not transgender" simply because the transgender umbrella (upon which the way was paved by Ms. Johnson's own Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) had not been established yet. As an avowed historian, Mr. Kohler should be aware of how many people who would be clearly seen as transgender now were identified merely as "queens" back then, in spite of how they did not present in a female-typical bodily appearance and/or feminine expression purely for performance, but throughout their daily lives when possible. If you can look at the story of Compton's Cafeteria and say they were not transgender, or look at the revolutionaries in STAR and say they "weren't transgender" simply because we did not popularly use that term as of yet, you are purposely missing the forest from the trees. It is not uncommon for transphobes to suggest that transgender people didn't exist until we came up with the current label, but it is preposterous and cissexist garbage. You can see a similar view asserted on Mr. Kohler's page here.
Mr. Kohler can be seen here yelling at Zoe Quinn (which is a popular pastime for misogynists, I hear) due to his emotional investment in disavowing popular accounts of transgender history.
The following image is quite telling. You can see Mr. Kohler agreeing with a patron of his blog that Johnson and Rivera were not transgender, simply because a different term was used for the same thing, a "street queen." They called the sex workers in the Compton's Cafeteria riot the same term. It's an early term for full-time transgender people. To miss that connection is to be deliberately obtuse for a historian. He also asserts that he is afraid to express his honest opinion about trans people for fear of the backlash with which his violent views would be met. This is mirrored in the Federalist interview.
Here, showing more emotional investment in the placement of Johnson and Rivera at Stonewall, he asks Miss Major Griffin-Gracy for her opinion. After she merely says "I did not run into them," he exaggerates this claim into her saying "they were not there" and then ironically suggests we should "keep personal agendas out of it."
When popular Gay Rights blog "JoeMyGod" ran the story of this clearly unethical and bigoted petition, they labeled it a "HomoCon" (short for Homosexual Conservative) petition. "Petitioner" states in the Federalist interview how frustrated he was by this. Here is Will Kohler throwing a hissy fit on their blog's comments section
While Cathy Brennan's associate Justin Norwood and his laughable Homosexuals NOT Homogenderuals Facebook page is very enthusiastic towards another White-centric misogynistic man creating this petition, Cathy Brennan and Gender Identity Watch have expressed their distaste for both the petition, and the man behind it.
Gender Identity Watch had previously publicly declared Will Kohler a misogynist. (I couldn't agree more.)
Will sure has a habit of framing nearly every instance of trans women defending themselves from intellectual violence and framing it as "overreacting." This is a common misogynistic form of gaslighting that all women constantly see. I'm sure he sees trans women as "irrational" and "overly emotional." He wrote such about Sylvia Rivera
line from the interview "You can't alter history to make yourself feel
better" is curiously similar to his comment here where he says, "They
should be remembered for what they did do, not what they didn't do
because some trans activist thinks it's kewl."
Another fun little line in the interview about "These labels create a
competition of oppression?" Well he hasn't used that anywhere else that I
can see. But he sure loves to complain about Oppression Olympics while
being oppressive to nearly everyone who isn't a White gay cis man.
For more fun, try searching for the term "@Back2Stonewall privilege" for good evidence on how to say racist things as a White man. One
VERY telling tidbit is that you can see from his Disqus profile that he
talks about his feelings of transgender participation at Stonewall
quite often. He also shared the link to the Drop The T petition within a
few hours of it being posted. But the Federalist
interview? While it has over 1200 comments and many of the big TERFs are
in on it... Mr. Loudmouth "Stonewall wasn't teh trannies!" Kohler is
uncharacteristically absent from the discussion. Wonder why he's staying
out of that one? Maybe it's because he was the one interviewed and he
said all he had to say already?
Mr. Kohler, you have absolutely no idea how much harm you could have caused had your ridiculous petition not fallen on deaf ears. Your worldview is archaic and had the world not progressed beyond it already, the curtain you tried to hide behind while you drafted this petition would have been stained with the blood of many, many people. Our lives are worth more than a silly dispute over who threw what 46 years ago. You can argue all you want about history, but with your drafting this petition, you have thrown a brick in the other direction; attacking the LGBT youth of today who uphold the legacy of those you have a passion for researching. And y'all better quiet down, because this street queen bashes back!
- Melissa Savage