Monday, 26 January 2015

Suspecting And Suspected

A couple of days ago there were a couple of incidents which saddened and annoyed me. They happen to have been on Facebook and that does influence them of course, but they're more reflective of a sign of the times than the mere influence of social media. 

The first was that a friends' account was hacked. Before I go any further, I want to say that I don't approve of that usage of the word "hacked" and prefer "cracked", but I realise I'm fighting a losing battle there so for now I'll concede for the sake of clarity and use the hated H-word.  The hacker proceeded to do two things. One was to post porn videos to various people's walls.  This was probably just immature. More seriously, they also attempted to join various parenting groups, presumably to get access to pictures of small children. Now, it is of course possible that it was innocent but given the juxtaposition with pornography that seems quite unlikely.

The second incident was on a group devoted to other purposes where a sixteen year old girl posted a link to her YouTube channel, assuming that was up front. I proceeded to tell her that many people didn't like that being done as they saw it as tantamount to spam. She then asked me about my channel and I told her she'd probably find it boring but if she wanted homework help she'd find it there.  Someone else then intervened, saying I was behaving suspiciously, so I messaged her offering to send her my full contact details and explaining that part of the " day job" was doing science workshops with children. She was of course dubious because of my transness.

What links these two incidents is that I am suspecting in one case and suspected in the other. However, it's also linked by the impression of inappropriate contact between adults and children. Confusingly I am on opposite sides here, so either I'm being inconsistent or there's a bigger picture I have yet to see.

First of all, the earlier incident concerned someone who unexpectedly requested membership of a home ed group.  The person in question is single and in his forties, and male.  I immediately became suspicious and took a look at his wall to find it was covered in posts in Thai.  Links to porn videos were then posted to his friends' walls.  I came to the conclusion that it wasn't him doing this but that he had probably not taken care to keep his account from being hacked. so I unfriended and blocked him.  A couple of days later, I received a friendship request from a new account which I assumed was his, him having sorted his problem out.  I accepted the request and immediately a porn video was posted to my wall from the account in question, so I also unfriended and blocked that.

I want to analyse this process.  First of all, I have reason to be suspicious of this person.  However, the mere fact that he is close to my age, male, single and childless is not sufficient reason to be suspicious.  Although I might imagine that a male in his forties who has never parented children biologically and is single would be more likely to be an active paedophile, or at least a paedophile, it doesn't follow.  He may simply be asexual or gay, or even hetero and unlucky.  However, if he then attempts to join a group consisting only of parents and home educated children it does raise my suspicion.  Hence the booting, and I have to say that seems entirely fair and rational to me.

Second of all though, there was another incident where I fell under suspicion.  An adolescent posted a link to her YouTube channel on a Facebook group which had nothing to do with YouTube.  I responded by saying that it wasn't really the done thing but then we got talking and I reluctantly posted a link to my own channel because it contains homework help-type videos on it.  Another user then said she was suspicious of what I was doing, in particular because of my name, and this is where it gets complicated.

I'm involved with home ed children because I used to home educate myself.  As mentioned before, I deal with the problem of child safety by encouraging parents to stay with their children during sessions.  Clearly this wouldn't work if we were, as certain public authorities seem to suspect, all part of a conspiracy to abuse the children.  However, there comes a point where suspicion becomes pathological, assuming a medical model.  Without that idea, I suppose the most I can say is that the conclusion is far from warranted on rational grounds.
My intention was to help the child with her homework, which I have regularly done in the past with other children of my acquaintance. The suspicion this aroused, I think, illustrates two things about life today, and to be honest I don't know what to do about them.  There is the angle of transphobia, which may or may not be valid.  Someone on the internet sees what she perceives to be a man masquerading as a woman, and becomes suspicious because it seems deceptive.  It's also unfamiliar and may be associated with sexual deviation in her mind.  It then gets coupled with the concept of an unstoppable male sex drive and with possible paedophilia.  In fact, none of that is really there, and I can only speak for myself here but I doubt it exists in other transwomen's minds either.  So I get misgendered as a man and also associated with a misandric stereotype.  However, I may be wrong.  It could be that a 47-year old ciswoman posting a link to her homework help channel on YouTube to a sixteen year old girl would be treated with equal suspicion, but I suspect she wouldn't have been.  Mind you, that isn't to say that suspicion wouldn't be warranted, but I suspect that generally it isn't.  One of the most hateful things about being perceived as being male is that you are a constant object of fear and suspicion to strangers.  This is a major plus about transition for me - I want rid of that.  I want to be recognised as someone with nurturing and mentoring skills and decades of parenting experience.  Hence that incident is particularly galling to me.

The trans condition is of course quite rare and possibly not particularly good as a source of universals.  However, there is a second point which is important here.  Are children and adults nowadays to be expected not to interact at all unless they are in the same family or have a professional involvement with them?  If that's the case, what kind of a world are we making?  Even if it's one where there is less child abuse, the price paid is extremely high.  A generation of children is now reaching maturity which has been trained to suspect people's motives and in an environment where probably the majority of adults are afraid to interact with children at all.  There are many fantastic things about the younger generation of course, but they are also under a lot of pressure, probably more than my generation at the same age, and the last thing they need is an environment where adults are automatically regarded with suspicion and censor themselves constantly so that they get no tactile contact, very little informal conversation and don't even interact online.  Granted, there is a risk of grooming and child sexual abuse and that is a serious risk, but what other problems have we created by behaving in this way?  What kind of a world have we made?  Possibly one in which there is an epidemic of self-harm and suicide attempts, way bigger than the scale of stranger danger about which we were encouraged to be wary.


On the other hand, I cannot and even feel I should not remove my own distrust of the FB user I've just blocked.  His behaviour really is inappropriate.

So how am I supposed to resolve this problem?