The Transgender Scapegoat
“In Christ, there is no… ‘male and female.’” — St. Paul the Apostle
Transgender soldiers have been banned from serving in the US military (except for the ones already serving). The opportunity for LGBT+ persons to serve openly in the military was approved during the Obama administration, at which point the world promptly ended and Jesus came back for his Church…
…Of course, nothing significant happened. Senators didn’t hold seven-hour filibusters, C-SPAN didn’t get angry callers about trans people in the gubmint.
But the Alt-Right and the conservative conspiracy-sphere have been transphobic for awhile, which can help explain why Trump selected this group for specific targeted discrimination. Remember that acceptance of gays and lesbians was part of Trump’s GOP-nomination acceptance speech — Trump really doesn’t seem to mind if you’re a gay man or woman, but he demands that you be a man or a woman. The binary remains.
It’s this gender binary that is so critically important to the notion of “traditional marriage,” and traditional marriage that is so important to the nuclear family, and the nuclear family that is so important to conservatives. It doesn’t matter how many wives or mistresses you’ve had, just as long as your relationships and identities all fall within the acceptable gender parameters and their qualified exceptions: gay, lesbian, or Cali Torres from Grey’s Anatomy (bisexuality, but only for cisgendered men and women).
The nuclear family, as we’ve come to experience it, is a product of institutional propaganda and the particularities of American Capitalism. It carries echoes of family dynamics that existed prior to its American incarnations: religious sacramentalism, aristocratic extramarital privileges. The family unit demands different loyalties than it did in previous epochs, when marriages were constructed by hierarchies, blessed by elders and oligarchs, dissolved with mere words, and organized around different material conditions.
Being inside a nuclear family, committing one’s loyalty to a certain normativity of sexuation and relationships, produces an almost instantaneous conservative impulse. This is by design. Nuclear families in America are inherently organized around economic pressures and competition between vertical and horizontal family nuclei. Keeping up with the Joneses, whether the Joneses live next door or on Reality TV. Nuclear families produce tremendous emotional attachments that demand generational replication, creating a permanent market of consumers and laborers, all competing with each other over scarce resources and for social standing. Homosexual relations presented a challenge to this dynamic, and wider acceptance of gay marriage seemed only to come after numerous high-profile celebrities and TV characters demonstrated that gay relationships could function within the dynamic of the nuclear family as designed by American Capitalism.
Of course, any sexuation outside of heteronormativity has been combatted to some degree in every culture across history. Even where alternative sexualities have been permitted and encouraged, these sexualities remain (with possible exceptions) permanent auxiliaries to normative gender identities. The point being that the particularities of the American ideological apparatus we call The Family are not culpable for every aspect of the homophobia or transphobia we experience today. On the contrary, as we have seen, American liberal capitalism has within it an economic method of incorporating gays and lesbians into its dynamics. And while it is certainly possible to incorporate trans people into these dynamics (think Caitlyn Jenner), transgenderism and transexuality necessarily stand in opposition to the dominant exploitative order.
But where Trump stands for this American liberal capitalist order — by which I mean that Trump is the unveiled version of Western Capital interests, the America Cult, and the imperialism that accompanies those ideas, unapologetically classist, racist, and patriarchal — where Trump stands for these things, he must — by default — stand against Transgenderism.
Transgenderism says something about the institution of The Family that cisgendered homo- and bisexuality never say. Of course, Transgender persons can appropriate the nuclear family as much as cisgender homosexuals, but transgenderism inherently negates the gender relations that operate within the nuclear apparatus. Trans identities purposefully target exploitative, discriminatory, and oppressive gender relations that necessarily accompany the nuclear family as designed by the reigning ideological order: transgenderism is designed to explode the assumptions of heteronormativity and its pervasive (Patriarchal) power dynamics.
We can even see from the standpoint of transgenderism that it is this revelation of the fragility of the ideology of heteronormativity that lies at the root of so many struggles for suffrage, rights, equality, and dignity. Transgenderism speaks the politics at the heart of Gender itself, revealing alternative political horizons within what is “traditionally” reduced to accidents of biology and expectations of culture. Like St. Paul telling the Galatian Christians that their communion in Christ obliterates the male/female distinction, Transgenderism speaks to the radical communion of all “sexuated relations” (that is, relationships that reference sexual identities: man, woman, spouse, parent, child, etc.). And there is no greater challenge to the ideological order than radical communion.
Transgenderism thus remains a particular threat to the capitalist, patriarchal establishment because of its inherent resistance to heteronormative appropriation. As soon as a man, exposed to trans politics, accepts that his masculinity is (at least partially) given to him from a socialized outside, it becomes impossible — apart from fundamentalist dogma (Trump, the Alt-Right, etc.) — to treat his masculinity as simply a biological accident or a natural necessity. Slavoj Zizek jokes that every man experiences Transgenderism when he struggles to urinate, the struggle forcing the question upon him, “Am I really a man?” Zizek’s joke, as usual, is not without its truth: the flimsiness of the gender binary is everywhere hidden in plain sight. Gender is as fragile as speciation, dividing species X from species Y based on something called a Genus — an assumed fictional archetype incarnated in every one of its species and none of them, all at once.
The explosion of the gender binary is a horizontalist political gesture: it opens egalitarian horizons, gender politics on an even plain, rather than the vertical, hierarchical politics of traditionalists. Horizontalist gestures expose systemic gaps in verticalist ideologies by trans-cending verticalist logics. When the Haitians threw out the French and declared themselves a black republic, one of their constitutions made special provision for their white allies by making them, in regards to the law, black citizens. The political horizons of Race were transcended. Transcending Gender opens similar possibilities: to put it crassly, you may be born with a penis, but anyone can have “balls.”
You may be born with a uterus, but anyone can be a mother.
You may be male-bodied, but your legal and political gender is your choice.
You may be female-bodied, but the justice system needs to treat every body equally.
You may be intersex-bodied, born with a unique reproductive system, and you, like everyone else, get to decide what that means for your social gender performance.
The flesh is one thing, the spirit is another.
This is why Transgenderism cannot be tolerated in a Trump administration, because it is a political position as much as a sexual orientation. It is a fundamentally-egalitarian sexual-political identity, and it is, to the Alt-Right, the most tangible representation of the enemy ideology: what we might organize under what they call “Globalism.”
Trump and the Alt-Right denounce Globalism as a Leftist ideology, supposedly because Leftism (from Communism to progressive liberalism) is internationalist in practice: class solidarity trumps national identities.
(In reality, of course, Leftists denounce “globalization” all the time: Thomas Friedman’s neoliberal flat world is bourgeois Globalism, Globalism for the exploiter class.)
If, traditionally, Rightists guard the moral pillar called Freedom, so Leftists guard the moral pillar called Equality. Thus when Trump smells the Equality-politics of transgenderism, he immediately gets suspicious of globalist plots. Equality = Leftism = Globalism. And globalists, even more than practicing Muslims or immigrants or cisgendered gays, must not serve in the American military.
And what is Globalism to Trump and the Right: the loss of the power of American citizens to govern themselves independently of foreign authority. To the more conspiracy-minded, Globalism is the UN, Agenda 21, FEMA camps; global religious standardization; Transhumanism, human-animal-cyborg hybrids, and programmable brains all under the authority of a central, global order: elites psychologically, religiously, and economically enslaving the globe. Transgenderism is the doorway to all of these nightmares, striking at the core code of the state’s institutional apparati: the Nuclear Family. When the Family fails to structure interpersonal relations according to controllable hierarchies of power and influence, the ideological door is swung open and all other vertical structures of oppression come into view.
It has nothing to do with money for surgeries or unit cohesion or revenge for Chelsea Manning. Transgender soldiers are ideologically unsuitable for national defense. They have surrendered their bodies, minds, and souls to the globalist agenda, and they, perhaps more than any other group, will suffer outright condemnation and repression. Of course, minorities of all kinds have already experienced every manner of attack in the age of the TEA Party and Trump. But trans people are a particular scapegoat, an ideological enemy. They risk a more dangerous loss of cohesion: They can sabotage their comrades’ faith in the America Cult that uses our soldiers, police, and citizens as mercenary pawns in their global capitalist hegemony. Banning them from the military is foundational — for Trump, for the GOP, for conservatives; spooking the population with the immanent evil threat of transgenderism is soon to follow.
Joshua Bean is a freelance and aspiring author, Master of Divinity (Cairn University 2011), and full-time parent.
©Joshua Craig Bean 2017 all rights reserved.