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Why I Stood Up to a Bully

This Thursday, shit hit the fan as an online firestorm erupted over a retailer’s online bullying of a transgender comic book creator. I wrote the post about the issue, the “vindictive blog” in Larry’s own words. The reason I wrote the blog post was simple, a self-described leader of the comic book industry was cyber bullying someone online, and doing so with language that borders on hate speech. It’s ironic that this almost occurred on Spirit Day, when people are encouraged to show their support for the lgbt community.

I wrote the post because it’s the right thing to do. In my day job, I work in politics and one of the things I work on is getting better anti-cyber bullying laws on the books in states. It’s not easy and I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a difficult thing to do, balancing first amendment rights to free speech. But, much like in the current battle of Gawker vs. Reddit, free speech comes with a price. Larry has every right to be a “dick” (his own words) online, but I have every right to call him out for it. Furthermore, if he does want to take a leadership role in the comic book industry, he needs to act the part. Between this incident, and an earlier one, it seems lessons are not learned.

But, this particular issue bothered me. While I am not gay or transgender, I have many friends who are and working in the liberal/progressive political sphere I’m well aware of the abuse these individuals go through in their lives. Statistics are under-reported, but gay, lesbian and transgender people are more likely to be abused, assaulted or even murdered and these are hate crimes. Some think transgender individuals face a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered, though that number is in dispute. The Human Rights Campaign in their report shows that the actual numbers are disproportionate to other populations as well as under-reported or reported incorrectly. The TVT Project reports that 800 transgender people were murdered in the last four years. And here in Washington, DC where I live, there’s been a rash of assaults and murders of transgender individuals. Those statistics should get you to take notice and even the slightest intolerance should be called out for what it is.

And that brings us to the above two tweets by Larry Doherty. In Larry’s mind, his comments towards the transgender comic creator are the equivalent of the normal drivel he spews — hate and dislike towards sports teams or vitriol towards comic book publishers with which he disagrees in the direction they’re going or comics they’re publishing. Well, there is a difference. Last I checked, the bullying against corporations wasn’t resulting in real world violence or even death. Last I checked, corporations were not human beings. Human beings who deserve to be treated with respect. The same respect you, yourself, demand and expect.

Larry wants people to not be “sheep” and accept what’s fed down their throats by comic publishers. Well, here’s me not being a sheep. You Larry, are a bully. You’re not the shock jock you think you are, you’re a bully, plain and simple. Until you realize that and treat others with the respect they deserve, I will keep a watchful eye over you. This is the same I’d do for anyone in the comic book industry who posted similarly insane tweets and rants. This is a notice, not just Larry, but to all. The misogyny, the bigotry, the racism needs to stop in this industry.

There’s irony here. I’m not sure if your experience was like mine, but my interest in comic books, video games and Magic cards put me on the outside of the cool kids. I was one of the geeks. I was excluded and picked on. My interests were looked down upon and are even today as an adult. Now I have a platform, and judging by the reaction to my previous article, I can do some good here. Many of you agree with me and I hope we all can be more vocal. We have no right to exclude anyone from our hobby. To make them go through what many of us went through growing up. To do so is hypocrisy. To do so is to become the bullies we faced as kids.

I do believe the vast majority of the comic book readers are inclusive, and welcoming and like to share their hobby with others. It’s unfortunate there’s a vocal minority who have to drive solid voices away from the discussion. I think it’s all of our duty to call them out for it. I think you can consider this notice.

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Categories: Commentary

Author:Brett Schenker

Brett is a political consultant who resides in Arlington, VA. He grew up in Cleveland, OH and Buffalo, NY and attended the University at Buffalo, majoring in Political Science. Since then Brett has made his mark on politics working in various positions such as a Legislative Staffer for the Erie County Legislature, Special Assistant for Senator John Kerry, as the Database Administrator for Forward Together PAC, Deputy Internet Director for Chris Dodd for President, and Internet/Database Director for Virginians for Brian Moran, and Email Deliverability Czar for Salsa Labs. In 2007 Brett formed 5B Consulting providing his expertise on database solutions, new media and email strategy. He's a long time geek, reading comics since he was a child and learning to spell his name on an Atari 800. When he's not working, he's reading comics, playing video games and relaxing with a nice cup of tea. You can follow him on Twitter @bhschenker

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