How to Argue Against the New Anti-Trans Movement
We Need to Identify the Source of the Problem and Respond Effectively
Today, I want to talk about an important problem: the increasingly extreme anti-trans attitude that has now become a dominant feature in the reactionary culture war part of the Right. The problem is getting so bad that, honestly, I have to say that I would be quite concerned even if I were not trans. Moral panics targeting minorities have a very troublesome history, which is why everyone should be worried about one that is clearly brewing. Moreover, the current anti-trans wave is increasingly showing signs that it is going to affect non-trans people too. Therefore, it is a problem that needs more attention. Here, I will examine what the problem looks like, what its root cause is, and how we can change things.
Part 1: The Problem
It all began as part of a ‘pushback’ against the excesses of trans activism, starting a few years ago. Back then, some trans activists repeatedly tried to cancel people they didn’t agree with. They also began making demands that mainstream society change their language on many things, which was deemed to be unreasonable by many people. These developments brought together concerned parties from different parts of society, thinking they needed to push back against a movement that had become unreasonable. I, too, agreed that we should defend free speech, and I repeatedly stated my belief that such extreme actions were not going to help the trans community. However, we should remember that the activists described here are only a small part of the trans community, even if they are quite vocal.
Many people involved in this ‘pushback’ were genuinely concerned about free speech. They had no ill will towards trans people, and they told me so repeatedly. However, others with an anti-trans agenda, often rooted in religious fundamentalism, were also riding this ‘pushback’ wave, hidden at first behind the more reasonable voices defending free speech. Over time, backed by powerful forces vehemently opposed to trans rights, these anti-trans people began to change the narrative, from concern about activist overreach, to seeing the whole trans community as the enemy, perhaps linked with other conspiracy theories on the far-right.
The increasing dehumanization of trans people allowed cruelty towards trans people to be normalized. After all, trans people weren’t suffering people anymore, they were now enemies with a dangerous political agenda, who deserved whatever pushback that was coming their way. Anti-trans activists who openly state that they want to reduce the number of people who transition, and even one who stated that, in their ideal world, they want all medical transition to be banned, are now welcome as voices of common sense in trans skeptical circles. The fact that medical transition as treatment for gender dysphoria is medically indicated, and has a long history of use among adults with gender dysphoria, is basically never mentioned in these same circles. This has led to trivialization of gender dysphoria and the suffering it brings, which has led to real world effects, like Florida deciding to end Medicaid coverage for all medical transition treatments. Note that this applies to adult patients, some who have been followed up for many years, who have been assessed by their doctors as needing this treatment, because there is no other way to relieve their dysphoria. These patients receiving this treatment is certainly not controversial at all, from a clinical medicine point of view. Taking away others’ medically necessary treatment is one of the most despicable things one can do, especially if it is to fulfill a culture war objective.
Moreover, the implications of this new anti-trans wave are now starting to spread beyond trans people. There is now an increasing fearmongering and demonization of gender non-conformity, which is affecting non-trans people too. Even some gender critical feminists have become concerned about this recently, which shows how bad it has become. Furthermore, there is now a very real concern that the rising anti-trans sentiment is fueling a return of religious right politics, that would have authoritarian implications in many areas of life, and not just limited to the LGBT community. As you can see, it is all becoming a major problem that those who are dedicated to free speech, free expression, and compassionate treatment for all, have rightly become very worried about.
Part 2: The Root Cause
To deal with a problem, we need to examine its root cause. Here, I believe the root cause is biased coverage. It all began with unfair coverage of trans people, which made us into the ‘enemy’ over time. The most extreme trans activists are highlighted all the time. Even the most unpopular and most uninfluential activists are given a platform to showcase their views, as long as it would reflect badly on the trans community. The coverage of trans issues also strongly skew towards the most controversial issues, with journalists, reporters and show hosts often encouraging an emotional response from their audiences. Meanwhile, the fact that 99% of the trans community consists of everyday trans people, who just want to relieve their gender dysphoria and get on with their lives with as little hassle as possible, is never mentioned.
Looking at the history of the problem, I believe left-leaning media was worse during the mid-2010s. At that point, the LGBT discourse on left-leaning media was captured by postmodernist voices, like those who thought that the very existence of pronouns were ‘cisnormative’, and old-school regular trans people with gender dysphoria were deemed not progressive enough for them. Back then, at least right-leaning media would feature some reasonable trans people, as a counterpoint to what was being platformed on the other side.
However, as organized conservative politics began to take an anti-LGBT turn, right-leaning media stopped giving reasonable trans people a platform. Instead, they began to showcase only the most extreme activists, even more so than left-leaning media. Gender critical activists are often invited on to be the ‘reasonable’ voice, critiquing the ‘trans movement’ while normalizing hardline gender critical talking points. In contrast, while there are many reasonable trans people who are willing to talk about reasonable compromises, they are never given a chance to speak. All this contributes to a false picture that the trans community is full of extremists. The point is that, over time, we have been dehumanized, and turned into political enemies, as a result of this biased coverage.
Part 3: The Solution
The first step to change is to be aware of the problem. This is why I am trying my best to raise awareness all the time. The next step is to take action, to call out and push back against those who perpetuate the unfair coverage problem.
No, it is not OK to repeatedly use postmodern gender activists as ‘representation’ of what trans people believe. It is not OK to pretend that gender studies ‘experts’ speak for us, and let them put words in our mouth. And it is certainly not OK to disproportionately feature the most radical trans activists because they bring in more clicks and revenue. In fact, I believe that media outlets that engage in this kind of behavior should probably be subject to a boycott, so as to correct for the problem of financial incentives, but that’s another topic.
We should also remember that basically all kinds of media outlets are currently guilty of the aforementioned behavior. Old school mainstream media, internet-based new media, progressive media, conservative media, so-called free speech media, they are all guilty, and they all need to be called out. Therefore, we need to push back against all of them, without discrimination. Only by acting to end this unfair coverage problem can the current anti-trans wave be defeated.