Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Transphobia is the New Homophobia

Natalie Wynn, one of my favourite YouTubers, came out with a 2-hour long video, basically a feature-length film, her first in 10 months. This one is on J.K. Rowling, whom she discussed two years ago (and I wrote about here if you need to catch up on the controversy). 

This time she goes further into the connections between the homophobic and transphobic movements, comparing Anita Bryant in the 70s to Rowling now, to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I remember Bryant's commercials for orange juice from my childhood and my parents' reaction to her religious campaign to save children from the gays: Religion shouldn't be used to perpetuate hatred against a group of people; that misses the whole point! Bryant's argument is that gay people get special privileges if they are given extra rights (like, to live free from discrimination) that go against the rights of "normal Americans," and since they can't procreate, they "reproduce through recruitment." They hold hands in public to get your children to try to join them!! 

But then Bryant was blacklisted for "defending children from being recruited by homosexuals" and lost her job as spokesperson with Florida Orange Juice. Wynn questions, Was she cancelled?? Or was she just reaping the consequences of being a bigoted person in a progressive society?

Wynn looks more deeply at Bryant's effect on society, quoting Lillian Fadermen, from The Gay Revolution:

"A mass movement can get along fine without a god, but it won't get along at all without a devil. For gay people all over the country, Anita Bryant became that devil."

As synchronicity would have it, that identical sentiment was part of a New York Times article published at the same time -- Jinx! -- which said, 

"When the Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to same-sex marriage nearly eight years ago, social conservatives were set adrift. The ruling stripped them of an issue they had used to galvanize rank-and-file supporters and big donors. And it left them searching for a cause that--like opposing gay marriage--would rally the base and raise the movement's profile on the national stage. . . . Today, the effort to restrict transgender rights has supplanted same-sex marriage as an animating issue for social conservatives at a pace that has stunned political leaders across the spectrum. It has reinvigorated a network of conservative groups, increased fund-raising and set the agenda in school boards and state legislatures. . . . 
At least 20 states, all controlled by Republicans, have enacted laws that reach well beyond the initial debates over access to bathrooms and into medical treatments, participation in sports and policies on discussing gender in schools. . . . It was the result of careful planning by national conservative organizations to harness the emotion around gender politics. . . . The issue, [Matt Sharp] argued, is 'what can we do to protect the children?' . . . There was a direct line from the right's focus on transgender children to other issues it has seized on in the name of 'parents' rights'--such as banning books and curriculums that teach about racism."  

Then Wynn turns to how we try to bridge the divide. Years ago, she came at this Rowling-inspired anti-trans backlash with the belief that "people can change if you just talk to them and have a good argument," but discovered that's often not the case. It reminds me of Sartre's famous bit:

I thought I knew about all the logical fallacies, but Wynn explains a Motte & Bailey arguments. A motte is a fortified building on a hill and a bailey is a far less secure area at the base of the hill. Some bigoted people will make an outrageous claim (the bailey), and then when they're criticized, they shift to a more easily supported claim (the motte), which is why arguing with them is infuriating. It's kind of the flip side of a straw man argument. 

ETA: Here's another version of this type of argument (sorry about the swears):

They'll also make aggressive assertions, then play victim as soon as they are criticized. Some arguing against trans rights today don't believe transphobia exists as a concept, so it's impossible to get them to understand their own prejudices because, to them, since trans people don't actually exist, it's not possible to be prejudiced against them. 

In trying to understand their position, I think it's like if a few friends and I started calling ourselves pumpkinheads, and started wearing pumpkins on our heads, insisting that our heads are pumpkins, and fighting for our rights to be free from discrimination. People could rightly argue that it's not a real thing and that they shouldn't have to tolerate the guy in the next cubicle getting a bigger office and bigger computer to accommodate the flippin' pumpkin on his head!! 

That analogy might help to understand why some people are outraged by trans rights and understand the claim that trans people don't exist. Except they're really wrong. Pumpkinheads aren't a real thing, but trans experiences are. They've been recorded 5,000 years ago and 2,000 years ago in Hindu society, and 2,000 years ago in Roman culture. There's a long history of people crossing and/or straddling the perceived binary gender divide.

But Wynn's take home point is that it's really nice to try to calmly change people's minds, one bigot at a time, with empathy and compassion, BUT we also have to protect people who are being targeted, actual vulnerable groups (as opposed to people claiming they've been cancelled while maintaining an expansive audience, or lost their family and job for holding prejudicial views). Wynn explains why she's moved left of centre: 
"Deradicalization is a valid strategy, and a noble thing to do, but it can't be the only strategy, and it must not be the primary strategy. Or else feminists would waste all their time trying to convince Andrew Tate to respect women! Our time is better spent convincing others not to listen to him."
It must be acceptable to shun offensive concepts. This is especially important when arguing with bigots with a huge reach, like Rowling, who can actually influence the masses, which can have an effect on policy, like these 471 bills making their way through US legislature. We currently have regular delegates to our school board demanding forced outing of trans kids, so we're clearly not immune to this. 

Each new bill that erodes the rights of a group of people is another step towards elimination of the group, as suggested by the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention, so we have to fight it at every turn: 
In related news, Tennessee just passed bill HB 1376 that allows "state leaders to withhold funding for schools that teach about social, cultural and legal issues related to race and racism." The list of "divisive concepts" includes bias, white privilege, and racism's role in slavery. They allegedly hope to advance knowledge, not political agendas, except it will effectively eliminate entire units from history courses.

That term divisive was also bandied about during pandemic discussions. Masks and vaccines are divisive, therefore we have to stop talking about them. I've been threatened for discussing Covid for fear it will tear us apart as if we're all too fragile now to disagree and debate and actually scrutinize the best studies we can find to get to the best answer. Instead, a small but noisy group wants us to stop all controversial discussions, some of which are only deemed controversial because they don't approve. 

We've also heard from people in our community that want critical race theory (CRT) taken out of the curriculum to end discrimination by no longer discussing it, despite the curriculum being out of our hands, not to mention that the position makes about as much sense to me as ending teen pregnancy and STIs by no longer allowing sex education in classrooms. But never fear, Lecce just announced yesterday that the government is going to assume greater control over school boards in order to fix education, as Jenny Lee Shee points out, just like they fixed long-term care, hallway medicine, the autism supports waitlist, ODSP rates, the affordable housing crisis, Ontario Place, license plates, the greenbelt... 

Cleanse your palette after all that with some Drew Morgan (warning: some swears and mature content, and keep in mind he's a comedian, not a politician -- he's making jokes not policy!):

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