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This is what happened next.

There is a person who wrote under that name alive on the planet right now, someone who published a critically acclaimed, award-nominated short story. If she wanted to publish again, she surely could. The story — and especially its title, which co-opts a transphobic meme — had provoked days of contentious debate online within the science fiction community, the trans community, and the community of people who worry that cancel culture has run amok.

Because there was little biographical information available about its author, the debate hinged on one question: Who was Isabel Fall? And that question ate her alive. When she emerged from the hospital a few weeks later, the world had moved on, but she was still scarred by what had happened.

She decided on something drastic: She would no longer be Isabel Fall. As a trans woman early in transition, Fall had the option of retreating to the relative safety of her legal, masculine identity. And then her life fell apart.

In the 18 months since, what happened to her has become a case study for various people who want to talk about the Way We Live Today. It has been held up as an example of progressives carmen hayes twitter their own, of the dangers of online anonymity, of the need for sensitivity readers or content warnings. The full tale is amorphous and weird, and recounting its ins and outs is nearly impossible to do here.

Just trying to explain the motivations of all involved is a task in and of itself, and at any rate, that story has been told many timesquoting others extensively. Fall has never spoken publicly about the situation until now. For a while, people seemed to like it. I thought it was beautiful and devastating and incredibly subversive and surprising. It did all this work in a carmen hayes twitter short amount of space, which I found completely breathtaking. The tweets that still exist from that period were largely positive responses to the story, often from trans people. They expressed those fears in the comments of the story, in various science fiction discussion groups, and all over Twitter.

Fans of the story pushed back, saying it was a bold and striking piece of writing from an exciting new voice. While the debate was initially among trans people for the most part, it eventually spilled over to cis sci-fi fans who boosted the concerns of trans people who were worried about the story.

This is not censorship. She needed this to be done for her own personal safety and health. Fall, reeling, checked into the hospital.

How twitter can ruin a life

I had been working on a completely different piece about the short story and wanted to invite her to share her version of events, which thus far have been defined by voices that are not her own. Clarke put me in touch with Fall, and she agreed to speak with me on the condition that we only correspond over. I am the first journalist she has talked to about what happened.

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. 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.

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It 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. On that level, it has plenty to say even to cisgender people.

After all, if all gender is on some level a performance and it isthen it can be co-opted and perverted by the state. We are constantly trapped by gender, even when we know we are trapped by it.

We need teams and groups and identities, not just to belong to, but as mental objects to manipulate and wield. If we tried to hold 10 million unique experiences of gender in our mind they would sift through our fingers and roll away.

Such a conversation around gender is not particularly conducive to those who are figuring out their gender in public, as all trans people must do eventually. Which is to say: That conversation is not conducive to people like Fall. Because we need the boxes to argue over. I do not want to be in a box. I want to sift through your fingers, to vanish, to be unseen. To wit. Fall was channeling that ironic reclamation, but readers were quick to jump to their own conclusions. Many only read as far as the title before assuming Fall was either transphobic herself or a trans person intentionally using the meme to make a point.

She had never published fiction before. She was a blank space, upon which anyone could project their worst fears or biggest hopes. They were publicly critical of the story on Twitter. But a lot of trans women adopt an online pseudonym before coming out publicly, including me. To come out as a trans woman in a transphobic patriarchal society that views our existence as a curiosity at best is rarely something done all at once.

It requires baby steps, like becoming used to a new name that starts to feel like home. A few people insisted to me that the controversy began with honest but negative readings of the story by people who felt Fall had missed the mark, before mutating into something worse.

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One unstated assumption made here is that only trans people should write about trans experiences, and therefore, Fall should have identified herself as a trans woman directly in the bio attached to the story. This notion is admirable on the surface but fails to for the many ways in which trans artists explore and experience their gender in what they create. But Isabel was not that. She was accused of being an alt-right troll or a Nazi. Only when things had gone too far did the good-faith criticism start to roll in.

Barb is Korean. But in her telling, the good-faith criticism came after the attempts to prove she was a bad actor. By then, the damage was done. The mess very quickly turned nasty and personal, and it was happening where Fall could see all of it.

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I would read it; I would go straight to the worst things. If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm, or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, there are people who want to help:. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline : The Trevor Project : The International Association for Suicide Prevention lists a of suicide hotlines by country.

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One criticism above all got to her: that Fall must be a cis man, because no woman would ever write in the way she did. And because this criticism was so often leveled by cis women, Fall felt her gender dysphoria the gap between her gender and her gender ased at birth increasing.

Now, in a bitterly ironic twist, the same was happening to her. Where do you feel dysphoria the hardest? In the closet. That was when she asked Clarke to take down the story. Twitter is really good at making otherwise unimportant things seem like important news.

You're now in slide show mode.

There were discussions of the story on forums and in comment thre all over the internet, but it is the nature of Twitter that all but ensured this particular argument would rage out of control. The delineation between paranoid and reparative readings originated inwith influential critic Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.

A reparative reading seeks out what might be nourishing or healing in a work of art, even if the work is flawed. Nothing can do everything. But Twitter is a platform that rewards divisive opinions, which are more likely to drive engagement hearts, retweets, and the like. So, many influencers with the biggest reach on Twitter are also people whose core identity is expressing divisive opinions. And the people elevating those paranoid takes were almost all cis. Once a Twitter conversation takes carmen hayes twitter like this, it becomes very difficult to stop, which le to stranger and stranger levels of binary thinking and gatekeeping.

I found two tweets posted within hours of each other where one insisted Fall must be a cis carmen hayes twitter and the other insisted she must be a cis woman. Both were sure she was mocking trans people. Once a Twitter controversy has reached that critical mass is usually when you might start reading about it in the media.

The ebook was not nominated. In the two weeks that the story was online, discussion around it attracted interest, and the story amassed a wide of fans beyond the normal sphere of science fiction short-story aficionados. Many people who read it did so because it was controversial, but it only became controversial because it was so widely read. Those articles launched the discourse beyond the twin niches of online trans communities and online SFF communities and sent it swirling out into the larger internet of people vaguely interested in free speech absolutism.

With every new article, a new audience of people outside of the science fiction community learned about Isabel Fall, and a new wave of anger fell on everybody involved, regardless of their position, including Fall. It brought in the whole cancel culture thing. Isabel needed that story down for her, not for them, and not for anybody else.

But for her. But people still wanted that cancel narrative. Clarkesworld hired a sensitivity reader.

The story spent far longer in the editing process than most other stories published in the magazine. And so on. The prevailing narratives about the story erased her agency almost entirely.