I just took a journey that has left me cold and frightened
I’ve never known much about white supremacists, anti-semitic conspiracists, or “Christian” nationalists. I’ve had no personal contact with the Proud Boys, neo-nazis, militias or similar movements, even though such ideologies are supposedly prevalent in rural Michigan where I live.
I know lots of transgender people, though.
I know many of them live with pain and fear caused not by their gender presentation but by the hostility and hatred of strangers. I have a trans friend in liberal Ann Arbor who looks over his shoulder when he walks his dog. His fears are well founded; trans people in the US are harassed, attacked, and murdered at frightening rates.
I have read that emerging white supremacist organizations praise a certain “European chauvinism” that targets people of color and people of different cultures and religions like Muslims and Jews. I know these groups also promote sexist and misogynistic ideas, but until last week, I didn’t know how far they go to incite hatred against transgender people.
When a Twitter follower alerted me to The Transgender Industrial Complex, a newly published book making a big splash in far-right and alt-right circles, I took a deep dive into bigotry that has me breathless with astonishment and disgust.
What’s the book about? One Amazon reviewer sums it up concisely:
Not only is the narrative it claims historically revisionist and entirely false, it is deeply dangerous to trans and Jewish people. There is no historical basis for the sweeping claims it makes about a global Jewish cabal using gender to destroy white, Christian, European society.
This is not history, it is just transphobia and antisemitism. Trans and Jewish lives are at stake.
That review is not hyperbole
Based on my own reading, The Transgender Industrial Complex makes the following claims:
- Modern “Transgenderism” (the author’s term) began with surgical experimentation on children in the 1960s by child-molesting doctors, but its roots are Jewish and date back to the 14th century.
- Gender theory grew out of child sexual abuse and remains sexual abuse at its core.
- Rates of anti-trans violence are actually very low, and where violence does exist it’s merely a subset of Black-on-Black violence, which exists because Black people are innately more violent and less civilized than white/European people.
- People who call themselves transgender are mentally/physically ill, requiring the support of medical professionals and therapy to feel comfortable with their “true” sex.
- “Transgenderism” is not a grassroots phenomenon, but an international conspiracy directed by Jews in Davos, Switzerland who provide most or all funds needed to run transgender education campaigns and gender-affirming clinics.
- This cabal of Jews, in order to enrich themselves and become more powerful, are bent on destroying White/European/Christian values and civilization. “Transgenderism” is one of an assortment of their tools, which include multiculturalism, mixing of the races, and popularization of secular or atheist government.
The author’s claims are largely incoherent. Typical of conspiracy theorists, he cites lack of evidence as evidence of conspiracy while failing to provide positive evidence for his outlandish assertions.
The sneering and hatred felt like a form of raw othering I haven’t experienced since I was in school surrounded by bullies.
He ignores the transgender experience as lived by actual transgender people, ignores the prevalence of gender-variant people throughout human history, and barely contains an apparent personal animosity toward people of color and Jews.
His assertions of worldwide funding of transgender education and medical/surgical treatment are preposterous, based on innuendo, supposition, and misdirection rather than data. He doesn’t “follow the money,” he just tosses out ideas he says must be correct because so many people are trying to hide evidence that would prove his case — if only they weren’t hiding it.
He does follow one “Money trail,” however, focusing hard on a psychologist he paints wrongly as having invented “transgenderism.”
The tragic case of Dr. John Money and the Reimer twins
The author rests much of his foundation on criticism of the controversial New Zealand/American psychologist John Money, who infamously experimented on a pair of twin boys, one of whose penises was severed in a botched circumcision in 1966.
Money convinced the boy’s parents to have his testicles removed surgically and to raise him as a girl with the aid of hormone treatment. The boy, however, resisted feminization, never identified as a girl, and withdrew from treatment at the age of 14 when he finally learned the truth. He and his brother both committed suicide as adults, and their parents blame Dr. Money, whom they accuse of taking sexually inappropriate photos of both of their sons as children and of forcing them to engage together in simulated sexual activity.
Dr. Money’s work with the twins has been condemned as unethical, although he apparently met ethical standards of his day. His work is one of the reasons why medical standards for experimentation on humans have been strengthened and made subject to more stringent oversight.
The author’s claims that Dr. Money founded “transgenderism” are false
While it’s true John Money did pioneering work in gender, possibly (but not certainly) being responsible for popularizing the term “gender identity,” no one serious claims he invented the idea of transgender people or created a popular movement.
In fact, his ideas about gender and gender-identity formation have come to be recognized as incorrect. He argued a child’s gender identity is fluid up to a certain age, influenced by behavior and experiences, and then becomes consolidated and more-or-less immutable. This is the theory he was attempting to support with his experimentation on the Reimer twins.
His ideas are not supported by gender theorists or by transgender people today, most of whom point to research that suggests gender identity has a biological basis and for reasons we don’t yet fully understand sometimes does not match external genitalia. They say the Reimer experiment demonstrates that gender identity is strongly fixed in the brain and that attempts to change it are ineffective and harmful.
Right Wing Reaction to The Transgender Industrial Complex
The author’s Reimer/Money proposition is the only part of the book I am rebutting in this article. His ideas about Dr. Money are based on wrong assumptions about transgender people and gender identity, but they’re coherent enough to discuss. The rest of the book is an absurdist flight of fantasy that deserves to be ignored — one of the reasons I’m not quoting any passages or even using the author’s name.
I would not be writing at all if it were not for a deep dive into hate I encountered after reading. I wanted to know how the far/alt right has reacted, and what I’ve learned has been sobering.
I started with the publisher
Antelope Hill Publishing, which prints hardcover books and sells e-books via Amazon, say they seek “to ensure history, culture, and revolutionary ideas will be preserved in the written word and made easily accessible, fairly priced, and professionally published. The best refutation of historical revisionists is a clear statement of primary accounts.”
Their offerings seem primarily if not exclusively dedicated to reprints of decades-old books that praise Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, the pre-WW2 British fascist movement, and vaguely homoerotic Wehrmacht workout manuals for young men.
The Transgender Industrial Complex, soon to be available in hardcopy, appears to be their only contemporary offering.
Then I turned to the world of video
My explorations led me to Bit Chute TV, a hosting service notorious for accommodating far-right views, conspiracy theories, and other content YouTube rejects as hateful or violent toward classes of people.
The author gives a disjointed interview to Red Ice TV, a slickly produced opinion channel full of videos that promote anti-vax ideology, assert covid-19 is a hoax, claim a global conspiracy cheated Donald Trump out of a second term, and praise the superiority of white/European culture.
The author begins his audio-only appearance in a bizarre growling tone, claiming he’s using technology to disguise his voice because transgender people will try to kill him for his views.
The rest of the interview goes much like the book. He repeats all the main points in a very hostile tone, appearing to feel personally threatened by or fearful of ideas about transgender people.
He wrongly claims modern “transgenderism” was invented by John Money, getting into a lot of lurid sexual details about the Reimer twins, implying that Money (rather than a botched circumcision) was responsible for the removal of one twin’s penis. He calls Money an evil child abuser and claims that “evil” is the only possible explanation for the international Jewish cabal that promotes transgenderism:
The people at the top [at Davos] know what they’re doing. It’s a dark energy that’s directing them… These are deeply corrupted, very sinister people who are aware of what they’re doing, and this kind of experimentation benefits them by giving them more data. They also have a phalanx of ideologues who do their bidding.
The host, a young white woman with impeccable dress and grooming, alternates between looking shocked and sneering about transgender people. She frequently plays videos of drag queens, mocking them while conflating them with trans folks. Then the two segue into discussing covid-19, agreeing it’s a Marxist/Jewish hoax similar to “transgenderism.”
The hour-long video left me feeling like I needed a shower.
The sneering and hatred evidenced by both the author and the host, combined with their misrepresentations and factual errors, felt like a form of raw othering I haven’t experienced since I was in school surrounded by bullies.
Next, I started looking for reviews
I wasn’t shocked to find articles or reviews of the book mentioned in ultra-right blogs alongside links to the Daily Stormer and other Nazi publications. I wasn’t surprised to find it featured all over Twitter, Reddit, and 4chan, where hardcore militia types and Proud Boys are gushing about it.
I WAS a little shocked to find a positive review in The Occidental Observer, an alt-right journal the New York Times has described as a haven for right-wing “intellectuals.”
According to the Anti Defamation League, The Observer serves as a platform for white supremacy, racism, and anti-semitism, promoting views that “Jews want to exterminate American whites” and impoverish them through organized ponzi scams like the one Bernard Madoff was convicted of orchestrating.
The Times observes that the publication is intensely racist, “couching white nationalist arguments as academic commentary on black inferiority, the immigration threat to whites and other racial issues.”
Indeed, in one recent editorial, an Observer columnist sings the praises of the Jim Crow South, suggesting BLM protests in the US stem not from oppression of Black people, but from “mixing of the races.” He goes on to blame Black people for ruining white society:
I’m not suggesting that the lives of the Blacks were in some way marvelous [during segregation], or even implying that they somehow should have been. But I do remember coming to the conclusion that a sense of peace was abroad in my part of the state simply because people were “keeping to their own,” and that things were existing in large part as they were meant to.
For those Whites unfortunate enough to be poor, the Southern public schools have undoubtedly been catastrophically ruined by integration. A little over a decade ago, I got to know a North Carolina family with three sons. The older two had been through the public school system and emerged as rap-loving delinquents who spoke in an Africanized dialect.
I’m not certain what makes this intellectual other than an odd quote from Thomas Carlyle, an obscure 19th-century British philosopher/theologian who argued in favor of slavery and feudal serfdom as the natural order of the universe, encouraged forced labor and execution for even minor criminal offenses, and opposed parliamentary democracy.
After poking around, I learned Carlyle has become something of a hero/saint in white supremacist circles, where references to him are far from rare.
Bertrand Russell and others have called him a “forerunner or intellectual ancestor of Nazism and Fascism.” Critics observe he often described Jews in hateful terms, calling them “insatiable” as money lenders, “horseleeches sucking the life out of honest men.”
His writings are liberally populated with such terms as “ravening flights of Jews,” “Jew harpies,” “Jewish jackasseries,” “cunning Jew,” “that lying Jew,” and “cursed old Jew.”
While he did not call for extermination of Jews or for restricting their civil liberties, his modern white supremacist devotees seem largely not to understand that.
I spend the better part of an afternoon reading alt-right sources that praise Carlyle not despite, but because of his strong personal antisemitism. I ended the afternoon feeling shocked and horrified to realize hatred of Jews still exists today at such toxic levels, and that it’s boiling barely under the surface of polite society.
My deep dive into hatred was fiercely personal
My late partner and de facto husband of a decade was Jewish. I read and speak a fair bit of Yiddish because of him. Our LGBTQ friends, including transgender people, sometimes attended services with us in a Manhattan Reform Jewish synagogue.
I lived in Detroit for many years where most of my neighbors were Black — and who experienced systemic racism and personal racist hatred at astounding levels. I have trans friends today who live in fear and fight depression because strangers hate them for no reason.
My deep dive this week exposed me to levels of such hatred that I haven’t seen expressed so baldly and brutally in years. I’ve never understood why certain groups of people become scapegoats. Become others. Become enemies to be fought against even in the absence of personal connection.
But reading The Transgender Industrial Complex, I met an author willing to invent nonsense just so he can hate people he’s never met. I encountered people willing to credit and promote his nonsense without genuine analysis, thoughtfulness, or meaningful criticism.
I pulled the covers off the bed and stared at the snarling monsters underneath. Now I feel cold, frightened, and all too aware of the human tendency to hurt people we don’t understand.
James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, an essayist occasionally published in queer news outlets, and an “agented” novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.