Trans Sandwiched
Published in

Trans Sandwiched

Queer Theory is What Has Come Between LGBT and Free Speech

When objective reality ceases to be our common ground, there is no point in debate anymore.

Image from Pexels

Today, I want to explore how queer theory has essentially come between the LGBT community, particularly the trans community, and free speech.

I have often said that free speech and trans acceptance are always friends. After all, free speech increases understanding, which increases acceptance. Free speech has always been the friend of those who want to advance understanding and acceptance of minorities, and those who want social progress more generally.

However, in recent years, some LGBT activists seem to not recognize this anymore. Incidents of LGBT activists attempting to ‘deplatform’ views they don’t agree with seem to be increasingly common. Some veterans of the LGBT community have observed that there seems to be an increased emphasis on ‘safety’ at the expense of free expression in LGBT community lately, which goes against decades of LGBT history emphasizing the importance of being free to express who we are. What many of us can agree on is that, there is a very real shift happening here, and it’s not a good one. So what is happening?

Let’s start here. For those of us who believe in free speech, why do we believe in it? Basically, it all boils down to a belief that free speech, free discussion and debate leads us to the objective truth. This kind of thinking is indeed a core theme in the cannon of liberalism. The one thing most, if not all, branches of liberalism have in common is the belief that the discovery of the objective truth is better served by empiricism of some kind, rather than blind faith in revelations passed down through generations. In this view, one must be free to experiment, to trial and error, including through speech as well as action, to get closer to the objective truth.

The value of allowing people to make errors, and to tolerate, and even embrace, emotionally upsetting and at times exhausting debate, lies in the hope that the exchange of ideas will ultimately lead to a better resolution of our differences. This hope works because there is only one objective reality, and even through our strong disagreements, we are still working towards understanding the same objective reality, usually in the hope of advancing some common good.

As a Moral Libertarian, my liberalism is geared towards the improvement of the morality of society over time, and I believe that free speech, as part of providing maximum moral agency to every individual to pursue what they believe is morally correct, and observing the results at the end, should be the method to get there. Other branches of liberalism might have different reasons for embracing the way of free speech, trial and error, and empiricism, including utilitarianism for John Stuart Mill and justice for the disadvantaged in the case of John Rawls, for example. In other words, we may ultimately value free speech for various reasons. However, it is implied that there must be an objective truth, an objective common ground that we share, and hence an ability to determine what is objectively good at the end of the process, for this logic to work. Those who don’t believe in sharing a reality in the objective truth have much less reason to value free speech, logically speaking.

Queer theory insists that the existence of stable, meaningful notions of ‘male’ and ‘female’ is inherently oppressive to LGBT people, and LGBT identity should be defined by resisting this. This model positions LGBT lives, particularly trans lives, as the battering ram against long-standing mainstream understandings of ‘male’ and ‘female’, rather than as participants in a fair marketplace of ideas seeking to better our understanding of the objective truth. (In fact, the postmodern dogma behind queer theory would not entertain any notion of being committed to the objective truth anyway.) Queer theory makes it seem like the basic cultural structure of mainstream society is inherently oppressive to LGBT people, particularly trans people. Hence, there is no common ground to be found, and no point to debate. This logically leads to a narrative that prioritizes the need to protect LGBT ‘safety’ from the oppressive mainstream, over the importance of promoting understanding through free speech.

But what queer theory implies isn’t true. There is no inherent opposition between being trans and stable, meaningful notions of ‘male’ and ‘female’, as long as the categories are not rigidly defined.

And there is indeed plenty of common ground between trans people and mainstream society. It can be found in the commitment to objective reality, through commitment to good science and empiricism. Contrary to the ramblings of gender critical feminists and other anti-trans activists, the validity of gender dysphoria is well established, using the long-standing standards of clinical medicine. We might not know exactly what causes gender dysphoria yet, but its existence has been established repeatedly in different populations at different times. Furthermore, gender transition has been shown again and again to be effective overall in relieving gender dysphoria, and is the only solution that has been shown to be effective in relieving most cases of gender dysphoria. All this proves that trans people are not merely making a lifestyle choice, or worse, taking a political stance, in identifying as trans and undergoing gender transition. This is an argument we need to be making much more going forward. And as an argument rooted in facts and reality, it can withstand vigorous challenge in the marketplace of ideas. Given that the validity of trans lives is well established in facts and reality, there really is no reason to shy away from promoting understanding through free speech.

Hence, for the sake of advancing trans understanding and acceptance, we need to move away from the queer theory philosophy, and return to a place where we can find common ground with mainstream society, so productive speech is possible. We can do so by focusing on the facts and the actual reality behind trans lives. We have a robust case to make for our acceptance, and we need to do it before the gender critical feminists and other anti-trans activists combine with queer theory activists to bury it for good. It is our responsibility to speak up before it’s too late.

TaraElla is a singer-songwriter and author, who recently published her autobiography The TaraElla Story, in which she described the events that inspired her writing.

She is also the author of The Trans Case Against Queer Theory.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
TaraElla

TaraElla

Author & musician. Moral Libertarian. Disrupting the woke vs anti-woke echo chambers and making the West truly liberal again. https://www.taraella.com