Dear Jen de Critique,
I am a committed socialist, and I hate prejudice of any kind: racism, homophobia, classism, sexism, ageism, ableism, you name it. However, I find trans people a bit yucky. Can you offer any advice about how to reconcile my pro-equality views with my feelings about trans people?
Tribune of the People
I’m glad you asked! Actually, I have lots of advice. So much, that I’ve divided it into a multi-point plan!
1) Demonize ideas, not people
We’ve all been there. We want to:
• deny trans children access to medical care • be able to humiliate trans people at work without consequence • make it impossible for trans people to go to the toilet without fear of assault or arrest
However, oppressing a marginalised group sounds bad for a person on the left. The solution is: stop talking about trans *people* and start talking about “trans ideology.” When you say you’re against trans ideology you’re invoking not images of human beings being stripped of basic rights but a vague, scary, faceless idea. Better still, you’re gesturing towards powerful, behind-the-scenes forces - a cabal with a stranglehold on lawmakers, judges and the media. (The fact that there are no trans lawmakers, no trans people in the judiciary and no trans people in senior media positions might seem to be a problem, but never fear! Simply *because* there are no trans people in those positions, it’s not something you’ll ever be asked to address.)
One point. It’s probably not a good idea to be too specific. JKR’s favourite, Magdalen Berns, linked the trans movement to George Soros, but that just made her sound like an antisemitic conspiracy theorist. Better to keep it vague! The vaguer, the scarier and the harder to disprove.
2) Ignore your bedfellows. The biggest promoters of anti-trans propaganda are of course the rightwing press; *The Times*, *Telegraph*, *Mail*, *Spectator*, *Spiked*, etc. The biggest funders are conservative organisations, often linked to anti-abortion and anti-women’s rights agendas. The biggest promoters of anti-trans legislation are rightwing governments: Bible-belt states such as Tennessee and Texas, or authoritarian countries such as Hungary and Russia. And, let’s not forget that our own Liz Truss, the Equalities Minister, who just called on government departments to cut ties with the UK’s premier LGBT rights organisation, is in fact a Tory.
I admit this doesn’t look good. Perhaps you’re asking whether it’s likely that Rupert Murdoch, Liz Truss, Viktor Orban and the rest have your best socialist interests at heart? In answer, I just ask you to think back to previous occasions when Left and Right found common cause. The Hitler-Stalin pact, for example – that worked out fine in the end, right?
Again, perhaps you’re worried that trans people are just being used as a wedge issue, and that once the precedent has been set the same tactics will be applied to suppress gay rights, abortion rights and women’s rights. To that objection, I reply - “OH LOOK, THERE'S A TRANS PERSON OVER THERE, THAT'S YOUR REAL ENEMY!!!!!”
3) Women and children first! One of the problems we face is that trans people are objectively harmless. At this point, for example, there is ample evidence from around the world that trans women are no danger to cis women in toilets, changing rooms or anywhere else. But don’t worry! A visceral mental image of a bestubbled man waving his willy about will make much more impact than facts. Moreover, as 1950s lynch mobs and 1970s homophobes alike proved, framing someone as a threat to women (especially white women) and children is a very effective way to by-pass the need for evidence. As a good feminist, of course you deplore the idea of women as helpless beings in need of rescue whenever you meet it in a Grimm fairy tale or a Hollywood movie, but for now I need you to put all doubts aside and embrace that meme wholeheartedly. Don’t worry – it’s just a means to an end!
4) The Cloud of Unknowing Finally, please do all you can to preserve your ignorance of trans people and issues. This requires constant vigilance, but thousands of fellow lefties have proved that it can be done! The internet may have made it more difficult in one sense, but the echo chamber nature of social media has been a godsend in others. In particular, please be careful to stay ignorant of the following…
a) Gender theory. Just as philosophy was once said to be footnotes to Plato, so for you, all *real* gender theory is footnotes to Janice Raymond. You can safely dismiss developments such as intersectionality (suggested phrase: “a distraction from the real issues”), and thinkers such as Judith Butler (“bloviated postmodern nonsense”). Mostly, of course, you can and should absolutely ignore what actual trans people have to say about their own experience. “Nothing about us without us” doesn’t apply here! You definitely shouldn’t read Julia Serano or Susan Stryker, any more than you’d listen to gay people on sexuality or Black people on racism.
The one exception is of course that, if you can discover a detransitioner or a self-hating trans person, you should absolutely make them into your spokesperson and wheel them out at every opportunity. They are rare, but they are a precious find! It’s *not in any way the same* as finding a woman who supports patriarchy and pretending that she speaks for all women. (Unfortunately, I don’t have room to explain why here – just take my word for it.)
b) Biology Science is messy and complicated, so it’s best to steer clear of it and stick to a few slogans, such as “Sex is real.” (This one has the advantage of implying that trans people deny that sex is real, which makes them seem unreasonable.) Don’t, whatever you do, talk to actual biologists or psychologists currently working on the subjects of sex or gender. They are obviously interested in maintaining the trans-friendly status quo, and their testimony can be ignored. (Side note: you may have wondered whether people with intersex conditions complicate the issue. My advice? Acknowledge they exist, but in the next breath make sure to dismiss them as a negligible minority.)
c) Hate groups Groups such as the LGB Alliance and Woman’s Place UK sound, from the names, as if their primary purpose is to advance the rights of LGB people and Women respectively, right? Certainly, their names don’t suggest that they are exclusively or almost exclusively anti-trans hate groups. Goodness knows, women face much bigger problems than the existence of trans people; while the LGB Alliance must surely spend most of its resources and influence in fighting anti-LBG legislation, advising on inclusive language and policies, and so on? It’s basically like Stonewall used to be before it became trans inclusive, right?
My advice is, just keep believing that. I definitely wouldn’t go to the LGB Alliance web site to see whether all their activities are in fact anti-trans focused, along with a side line in delegitimating any other sexualities than LGB and straight.
To be on the safe side, forget everything I said in the previous paragraph.
d) Trans People It’s best not to meet trans people at all. If you must, make sure it only happens in high-tension environments where they will necessarily be at a disadvantage: e.g. by challenging them to an impromptu debate about whether they should be allowed to exist, demanding they immediately give you a watertight definition of transphobia, etc.
If a trans person behaves badly, you are perfectly entitled to take that behaviour as representative of all trans people everywhere. Of course, if you extrapolated in this way with, say, someone of a particular ethnicity, it would undoubtedly be racist; but, as I’ve already explained, for our purposes trans people are more appropriately treated as ideas than human beings.
If you can't avoid them, remember that all trans people fall on one side or other of a very sharp line. Either they are a gross parody of the gender they identify with (a trans woman wearing make-up or a skirt! A trans man who works out!) or they fall far too short of it (a trans woman with hairy legs! A trans man whose voice hasn’t dropped!). The only certainty is that they will always fail, and that with your well-honed gender-critical skills you will always be in a position to call them out on it, and to know that you’re defending feminism and humanity from the evil trans menace in the process.
Jen de Critique