1. Vox: How Twitter can ruin a life
I vaguely remember when Isabel Fall’s science fiction short story, “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter,” came out and “drew the ire of the internet.” Published in the online magazine Clarkesworld, the story “explores three separate but interconnected ideas: gender as an innate part of the self, gender as a performance for society, and gender as a (literal) weapon of the state.” The story “was enormous news within the bubble of people who cared about it and made barely a blip outside of that bubble,” writes Emily VanDerWerff. Although the story was only online for ten days before being taken down at Fall’s request, it garnered many irate responses from all corners of the internet.
The story takes its title from a transphobic meme that “most likely originated on the forums for the game Team Fortress 2 before making its way to Reddit and 4chan, where it became a meme used to mock and demean trans people who spoke earnestly about their experiences and identities. The meme is transphobic on its face, because it suggests that one’s gender can be decided on a whim.” For her story, Fall took the sentiment seriously; “at its core, ‘Attack Helicopter’ is about the intersection of gender and American hegemony.”
Part of the reason “Attack Helicopter”—later retitled “Helicopter Story”—was so controversial was due to the fact that, at the time, Fall “was not yet ready to be publicly out as a trans woman, but hoped that writing it for a niche publication in a community that is frequently friendly to queer writers would be a good way to get her feet wet.” Apart from the author’s byline, there was no information about Fall online. While “Gatekeeping in a trans space usually involves loosely enforced rules that focus on giving those who exist within them a safe place to explore their identity,” people were skeptical of Fall, and “anonymity isn’t always welcome on the internet, where an anonymous identity can be weaponized for the worst. That gap — between the good-faith anonymity assumed in trans spaces and the bad-faith anonymity increasingly assumed online — was the one Fall wandered into.”
In her first time speaking to a journalist since “Attack Helicopter” was published, Fall tells her side of the story, explaining how Twitter can ruin a life.