The right-wing war on transgender and gender non-conforming people has escalated to a new, very dangerous level. Last weekend at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, a Daily Wire host named Michael Knowles railed against transgender people, telling the crowd, “For the good of society, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” The people in attendance applauded as Knowles smirked.
His use of the word “eradicated” was not an accident. Nor was his use of the word “transgenderism” instead of “transgender people.”
If you’ve read this column or followed me for a while, you likely know I’m trans myself. I transitioned 13 years ago. It was the hardest, scariest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve been so happy to see that journey become easier for people over the past decade, but when I hear violent, dehumanizing rhetoric like Knowles’s I fear for my community.
“Transgenderism” isn’t a thing. It’s a way to turn a group of people into an “ideology,” which is absolute garbage. Imagine doing that for any other group of people.
But what is this awful, dangerous ideology? What is this evil, “woke” mind virus that these right-wing extremists are saying threatens the very fabric of our society?
It’s simply this: leave us alone.
What do trans people want? We want the freedom to live our lives, and to be who we are in the full light of day. Any threat you think we pose is entirely in your head. Any danger you see in us is a product of your imagination.
Teaching children that we exist and are okay is not dangerous. Allowing people to shrug off one gender and embrace one that feels more comfortable and authentic, and asking that others respect them while they do so, is not a threat to society. Enacting protections that ensure that hateful people can’t lawfully bully us, fire us, beat us, and kill us is not the end of western civilization.
When you want to make sure a group is hated, what do you do? You frame them as a threat to children. And that’s what’s been done. Trans people and their allies have been tarred as “groomers” or pedophiles, with only the fact that we exist near children sometimes as evidence. Society loathes people who prey on children, so if you want a group to be hated, pretend they’re child molesters. That’s how harmless drag queens in over-the-top, fun costumes reading picture books to children became the extremists’ equivalent of luring innocent toddlers into the back of a van. It is a lie, one intended to fan the flames of hate.
Because there is no conspiracy to “turn” kids trans or to force them into something they don’t want, it’s just a hateful ploy to make us into monsters who are easy to despise. Letting a child explore gender in a safe and responsible way is not abuse, and teaching children the very real fact that being trans is just another way of being human is not indoctrinating them or brainwashing them. In the past, gays and lesbians were accused of “tricking” young people into homosexuality. Laughably wrong, isn’t it? Horribly bigoted. Well, this is the same as that.
The end result is that trans kids are suffering the brunt of the rage of the right.
Nobody is out here giving hormones to third graders, or doing surgeries on preteens. That doesn’t exist. Doctors have been prescribing puberty blockers for decades to children who are old enough and who want them; they are reversible and they are safe. For most kids, transition just means adopting a different name, new clothes, and new pronouns. Often they do this with the help and care of their parents, mental health professionals, and doctors. Adults usually transition both socially and medically with the support of doctors and therapists.
What does that have to do with you? Why does it enrage you so much? Who are you to say you know so much better than all of us who have lived this life, and all of the medical and mental health professionals who have studied and worked with us for decades?
Our “ideology” isn’t the dangerous one here.
Being trans is personal. It’s about the choices that we make for ourselves, and, sometimes, for our own bodies. It has nothing to do with you.
There are protections for trans people here in Connecticut. We’re fortunate that our legislature was wise and compassionate enough in 2011 to pass a groundbreaking anti-discrimination law. But elsewhere in the country, things are getting worse. Much worse. Extremists in Florida, Texas, and other states are proposing and passing laws targeting trans people at a record pace.
And if 2022 is any indication, trans people will yet again be a punching bag for right-wingers looking to stir up outrage in the 2024 election. It’s going to get bad, very bad.
All I ask is this: don’t close your eyes to what is happening. Speak out when you can. And when a grinning man tells a cheering crowd that he wants to eradicate trans people from American life: believe him.