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This Anti-Trans Moral Panic Was Never About How We Define Gender

by Alex Mell-Taylor 24 days ago in Identity / Culture / Community / Advocacy
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I don't care how someone's transphobic ass defines womanhood

User:Di (they-them), CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

There's been a huge debate about the "transgenders" recently. I can hear the "just asking questions" starter pack now. Are trans women real women? What is gender? What is sex? Do we really need to respect these people who are changing the game on this thing that has always existed?

And listen, we could engage in a never-ending spiral as we debate these concepts that philosophers and academics have argued for centuries. You say sexuality has never changed. I say our current concept of Sexual Orientation is less than 200 years old. You claim gender is linked to biology. I say our modern idea of biology is less than six decades young and, therefore, cannot be viewed as a historical constant.

And on and on the conversation goes.

Yet we are not really talking about the semantics of sex and gender when we argue about these concepts. Your individual conception of these two definitions is irrelevant — think what you want about sex and gender — it's what you do with these concepts that counts. We are going through a moral panic about LGBTQ+ people across the country (and the world), and rather than defending this marginalized group, you are asking its members to debate definitions before you accept their humanity.

And so rather than enter that circle jerk, we should ground this conversation, not in definitions and philosophical quandaries, but in facts.

The Facts About Transgender People

It is a fact that transgender people (not just children) face disproportionate rates of suicidal ideation. A 2015 survey of transgender inhabitants in the United States, one of the largest and most robust ones ever taken to this point, placed ideation at around 50%. Ideation tended to skew toward more marginalized groups, such as "younger ages, Alaskan Native/American Indian or Biracial/Multiracial respondents, transgender men, pansexual respondents, and non-binary respondents assigned female at birth."

It is a fact that when we look at this data, the reasons for this suicidal ideation primarily have to do with issues such as social stigma (e.g., discrimination, rejection from their spouse, family, or religious group, physical violence, etc.). It is not because, as many transphobic advocates claim that transitioning itself is the leading cause of this impulse. Transphobic people are one of the primary causes, and their heads are so far up their asses (and feelings) that they refuse to acknowledge the material reality (note: you can also say the same for detransitioning, where discrimination and rejection often being the primary reasons).

It is a fact that transgender people are more likely to be bullied and perpetuate bullying. Scholars in Frontier in Psychology write "that bullying during adolescence may serve as a mechanism of maintaining heteronormativity." This upholding of the status quo never goes away, with transgender people more likely to be victims of a violent crime than the average population.

It's a simple fact that affirming someone's gender identity lessens this social stigma and consequently lessens suicidal ideation. If you are team children (and adults) not killing themselves, or as with the case of bullying and hate crimes, being hurt by others, then you'll support people transitioning, regardless of how you personally define gender and sex. Why try to add to the pain of such a marginalized group?

It is a fact that puberty blockers (i.e., temporarily suppressing puberty through the use of medication) and hormones have low risks, and we know this because cisgender (i.e., not trans) people take them all the time. Some children have a condition where they enter puberty too early, or, in some instances, kids who are going through puberty very quickly, and puberty blockers have frequently been prescribed to them. Millions of cisgender men and women have likewise been prescribed hormones for various issues — the most common one being to treat the symptoms of menopause. While there are side effects for any medication, for millions of non-trans people taking the same medication, those risks have been considered negligible.

It is likewise a fact that most gender-affirming surgeries (not to be confused with the process of transitioning itself) are relatively safe. Most trans people who receive such procedures do not regret them, though there are always exceptions. Surgeons can fuck up heart transplants and pregnancy deliveries too. These individual failures don't mean we stop doing them overall because not every procedure worked well.

You are either for these life-saving practices, procedures, and medications, or you are not, and debating the definition of sex and gender doesn't change this reality. Transitioning via surgery, hormones, or puberty blockers is as medically safe as possible, reduces people's suicidal ideation, lessens their depression, and, because we exist in a society that actively enforces rigid gender norms, it often increases their actual physical safety. This debate about gender is usually a red herring meant to deflect from these facts.

Those arguing against transgender people are not doing it to protect trans people; everything we have just talked about suggests the opposite. Instead, they are trying to discriminate against trans people as a group to achieve political ends.

This debate is not about gender. It's about power.

As these "gender truthers" wax poetically about the sex of lions and the nature of gender, trans people face increasing social and political stigma. Trans people have fewer resources, face severe employment and housing discrimination, and endure disproportionate amounts of violence. This is not exactly a group with a lot of power.

Yet anti-trans advocates are making it seem like "transgender" people are somehow insidiously dictating how our society defines gender. They will talk about how "gender ideology" (something that is never well defined) is this pervasive, toxic force in society that is somehow permeating our entire culture.

However, that's not a sentiment based on reality. Just because your identity is the topic of a national conversation doesn't mean you are the arbiter of it. If it were the case that transgender people held an enormous, privileged position in society, then we would not be going through an anti-LGBTQ+ moral panic across the country.

Hate influencers right now are encouraging their followers to doxx and harass queer people for the simple act of being queer online. The social media platform Libs of TikTok (managed by Chaya Raichik), for example, has directed their followers to harass hundreds of people out this point, many of them queer teachers educating viewers on a variety of topics. People have lost their jobs and sent death threats over this hatred.

Hate influencers like Matt Walsh, Libs of Tok, and others have asked their followers to harass doctors and providers who serve the trans community. As recently as August, a children's hospital became the target of an intense harassment campaign because these influencers erroneously claimed it offered hysterectomies for patients below the age of 18. It does not.

Transphobic politicians have seized upon this moral panic to pass legislation that discriminates against transgender people. Hundreds of laws cover everything from limiting or banning trans student-athletes from being able to participate in sports to denying people access to medication.

Where was the cabal of gender ideology worshippers in stopping any of this?

Transgender people cannot simultaneously be this insidious force dictating how our society defines gender while also a group so easily suppressed that half of all state legislatures can strip away our rights. Only in the mind of a deranged fascist does that logic make any sense.

This isn't a debate about gender: not really. That's simply the transphobic icing to justify this reactionary cake we are all being forced to eat. It has never been merely about words or philosophy. This is a political conversation on whether an entire group of people can live their lives like everyone else. It is about power. The definition of womanhood may have started (for some) with pontifications on what gender means, but it has quickly morphed into some very regressive discrimination.

It is a fact that as transphobes like Walsh debate trans people's existences, the resources and rights that make them more whole are being stripped away.


Do you know how dehumanizing it is to articulate your pain and ask for help, only for people to sidestep your requests and instead make the whole thing a matter of debating your right to exist? You tell people you endure discrimination through bullying or violence, and they respond: "Oh yeah, well, can you even be hate-crimed if I personally do not philosophically accept your identity?"

If you are someone debating gender and sex during this moment in time, I have to question your priorities. Why is this question so important to you at this moment? Why do you demand that this marginalized group engage in this philosophical question when all around you, there is evidence that this debate is fueling immense discrimination?

It's not a coincidence that Matt Walsh released a documentary asking "What Is A Woman" while also pushing for doxxing campaigns against hospitals, using the false information we have brought up as a justification for that hatred.

It is not a coincidence that conservatives are seizing on anti-trans rhetoric as a rallying call to pass regressive legislation.

Whether we are talking about the "Trans question," the "Black question," or the "Jewish question," when you frame an entire group of people as something to be debated, it leads to some terrible outcomes. It becomes the rhetorical foundation for dehumanizing legislation and persecution.

It was never about gender, and the further we go down this road, the more noticeable this fact becomes.


About the author

Alex Mell-Taylor

I write long-form pieces on timely themes inside entertainment, pop culture, video games, gender, sexuality, race and politics. My writing currently reaches a growing audience of over 10,000 people every month across various publications.

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