© 2015 Mike Mozart, used under a Creative Commons license
In the Age of You Know Who, the conservative war on trans people might seem like a separate item from the rest of their nightmarish agenda — even a sidelight. On the surface it looks like just the latest effulgence of old-fashioned rightwing rage at changing sexual standards; just as they tried for decades to keep gay people marginalized, it may appear, so they now try to get transgender people to stop asserting their chosen gender identities so they can pretend they don’t exist.
And as with the gay thing, the trans attacks have come to look like a losing and indeed counterproductive battle. The big boys of the Right mostly evade the subject and concentrate on other policy issues. Sure, Rod Dreher rants and rages on the regular against “Trans Tyranny,” and you’ll occasionally see some asshole do a Blar Har Actually You Have a Penis “Lady” bit at some wingnut pub for the merriment of its octogenarian readers. But you’ll also see grudging quasi-libertarian demurrers and Republicans backing anti-discrimination bills (“We don’t live in 1980 anymore, and it’s time for us to get past this”). Shoot, there are even trans wingnuts!
But be not deceived, friends. These guys may be holding their fire but they haven’t disarmed.
True, bathroom bills and RFRAs have met with resistance even in holy-rolling Indiana, not only from liberals but also from tech and other businesses that doubt the smart people they need will stay in any state so keen to enshrine and advertise its bigotry. But anti-gay legislators haven’t stopped. After a previous failure, Texas Republicans are making another attack with a bill to keep professional associations, including the state law bar, from de-licensing members who refuse to serve LGBTQ people so long as it’s on the grounds of “a sincerely held religious belief,” wink wink. The Texas senate just passed it.
Where’d they get that idea? Oh yeah — there was that Supreme Court decision last summer, remember? Where SCOTUS held for the bakers who won’t serve godless gay newlyweds? Haven’t seen much about it since then, except in this bill — and others like it.
Also, though the bigtime conservatives act uninterested in engaging the trans issue, hardcore social conservatives keep hope alive. At the Heritage Foundation recently Ryan T. Anderson, a God-botherer well-publicized in the Bush years but relative low-profile of late, tried to exacerbate TERF tensions in the LGBTQ community by bringing anti-trans activists to a Heritage Foundation forum on the Equality Act, which is a sort of LQBTQ ERA. (Anderson claimed these folks had been “deplatformed” by the Left.) One of Anderson’s guests, Julie Beck, also appeared at a recent House hearing to denounce the Act. The linchpin of Beck’s argument — and that of conservatives who want to disguise their religious objection to trans people as a practical concern shared by all — is that men would, if covered by trans protections, pretend to be women and go into ladies’ rooms to rape (instead of doing it on deserted streets and alleys like most rapists), and also fuck up women’s sports.
You can get a glimpse of where their heads are really at from this anti-trans column at conservative flagship National Review. It’s not by any of their top writers — not even by their preeminent sexuality scold David French — but by Graham Hillard, who “teaches English and creative writing at Trevecca Nazarene University.”
Hillard starts with what has become a typical gambit among fundamentalists since Obergefell: He compares people who agitate for trans rights to the totalitarians in 1984. That’s why they seem to be popular — everyone’s brainwashed by Big Gay Brother! “On the subjects of identity and the nature of gender,” sighs Hillard, “the sexual avant-garde is steadily gaining the field.”
Hillard then feints toward civility — acknowledging that “many Americans are arriving at” the POV that “civility compels us to address people as they wish to be addressed,” and that “the use of undesired names and pronouns (‘deadnaming’ and ‘misgendering’ in transgender parlance) is an act of social aggression — a choice analogous to calling a female physician ‘Miss’ because one doesn’t believe that women should be doctors.”
Hillard goes even further, actually talking about trans people as if they were human:
The transgender individual whom I encounter in the street is not a political abstraction but a fellow American attempting to make what sense he can of his life. It is not entirely wrong to say that I deprive him of something significant if I speak of him in terms that violate his most deeply held sense of self.
People less cynical than me about Christians in the age of High Priest Trump may not be expecting the penny to drop. But inevitably:
Though compelling on their own limited terms, they fail to take into account that further capitulation where language is concerned can only give aid and comfort to a movement whose success is inevitably attended by the sexualization of children, the sanctioning of brutality, and the dramatic curtailment of freedom of speech and thought.
Apparently Hillard’s “fellow American” is “attempting to make what sense he can of his life” by fucking his kids, repealing his First Amendment, and smashing his head in. And after Hillard was so nice to him, in the hypothetical!
After some raving about little boys cutting their dicks off, Hillard ends as he began, in a victimization fantasy, but a far riper one:
To be sure, conservatives will pay a price for their stubbornness. A transgender movement that holds public opinion in its grasp may well increase the legal pressure on nonconformists should that grip begin to loosen. Jobs may be lost or friendships ruined. Our own children may one day condemn us. What is at stake, however, is the irreplaceable right to say of one thing, “true,” and of another, “false” — to define the basic realities from which our politics proceed. A man is a man. A woman is a woman. Let us not pretend otherwise.
When Big Brother arrives in the 21st century, he will appear not on posters but in grammar handbooks, HR manuals, and social media. Not as a tormentor but as a disappointed neighbor or friend.
No matter. We still mustn’t submit to him.
Those trans people may look friendly — they may even invite you into their homes — hell, back in the middle of this column Hillard was fooled too! But you must resist — they’re all sex death brutes!
I’d suggest clinical intervention — but then that’s just like a liberal, right, trying to get the poor guy into some psychiatric gulag where he’ll be made to say two plus two equals cocksucking. So I’ll just quote that old Calypsonian: When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.