You’re Delusional if You Think Queer People Are Responsible for This Moral Panic
Transphobia, queerness, Ted Cruz, and unhelpful defense mechanisms
There is this tiring argument that happens on the Internet (and in real life), where whenever something bad happens —i.e., an election doesn't go well, a terrible law is passed, a court decision reverses a group's rights, etc.—people try to push the blame onto the person or group hurt.
"You should have bothered to understand the people hurting you more," the logic goes. If only you had tapped into their inner psychology enough, you could have framed things in a way that would have stopped this from happening. It's the bargaining part of grief, where you pull out the infinite spiral of "what-ifs," "shoulds," and "coulds" in a futile attempt to reverse the past.
We see this in every moment in history, and we are seeing it now during the current anti-LGBT moral panic that has swept the country. And like in these past movements, this shift in blame is [email protected] delusional.
This Argument Make No Damn Sense
There have been a thousand tiny debates recently about whether we should gate-keep other marginalized groups out of our spaces. Should we recognize trans people that don't fall inside the male-female binary? Should there be kink at pride? Are all these protests making the straights and the cisgenders too uncomfortable?
Essentially, people are arguing that the queers have been too weird recently. We normalized ourselves after winning the battle for same-sex marriage, but now, with this new shift in nonbinary people, trans rights, and "fringe" sexual minorities like kink and polyamory, we have pushed too far and too quickly.
A great example of this hesitancy comes from conservative trans YouTuber Blaire White, who has made the case that the current anti-queer laws sweeping across the country are because trans people have not respected trans-medicalism (i.e., the belief that transgenderism is only valid if someone has diagnosed dysphoria). She blames a move away from this definition as a cause for the moral panic sweeping the country, saying in a 2020 video:
“[There] are people who appropriate being trans for attention. You can act like they don’t exist. [But] they do….I feel like the existence of gender dysphoria validates trans people on a scientific level and [allows] other people to see that its not really a choice that we feel or behave this way….I feel like [appropriating transness] deeply contributes to the fact that LGBT acceptance has been going down for the first time in decades.”
However, this perspective ignores history. Social minorities have always made people uncomfortable when fighting for acceptance. The suffragettes were viewed as a menace. Civil Rights initially polled very badly during the 1960s. MLK Jr. was detested by the American public when he came out against the Vietnam war. We can say the same for the Stonewall Riots, Act Up, the modern environmental movement, and pretty much every transgressive social movement throughout history.
If you are looking to never make hateful people uncomfortable, you will never achieve any social progress.
Blaire White can only be a YouTuber because other trans activists were willing to stand up publicly, risking far more for far less. People like her come off as naive when they argue that we must work around the opinions of those who hate us.
Those arguments ignore the fact that many hateful people never normalized to queer rights. While most Americans now support positions such as same-sex marriage, politicians like Ted Cruz, for example, were anti-queer before the passage of same-sex marriage, and they are anti-queer now. Ted Cruz responded to the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling calling it a mistake. We have no indication he changed his mind since then (he hasn't)— he has merely waited for a better moment to strike.
Ted Cruz didn't have an "ah-ha" moment where the popularization of nonbinary identity made him so unsettled that he decided to turn his back on the greater LGBTQ+ community. People like that are not even keyed into the transmedicalist debate enough to comment on it. This whole conversation reeks of the spotlight effect. Queer people like Blaire White are assuming that words, arguments, and terminology that mean a lot to them personally mean a damn to their enemies when for the most part, they aren't even on their radars.
As far as most anti-queer people are concerned, all LGBT people (and really all gender and sexual relationship minorities) are disgusting. People like Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene aren't saying they will accept trans people if they narrowly stick to the transmedicalist framing. They are calling all queer people groomers, pedophiles, and the like. You are delusional if you think there was ever going to be a set of framings that would convince someone like that otherwise.
I know many on the left want to cling to the idea that people can change — and they can —but anti-queer deradicalization (i.e., slowly getting someone to abandon their hateful outlook) is a complicated process that involves repeated exposure over the course of an extended period, in some cases years or decades, if at all. No single statement or word magically flips a switch and makes someone less hateful.
It's tempting to look at this moral panic and to try to replay the past to see what we could have done differently. “Maybe if I hadn't been so righteous, so assertive, so demanding, it could have worked out differently.”
Yet this is a thought distortion. I know that many people develop defense mechanisms where they try to predict others' reactions as a way to anticipate and potentially avoid discrimination, but you can't truly control other people's thoughts and actions. It is the logic of "living under an abuser" to assume that you should be responsible for the hurt someone else causes you. That is not how a healthy relationship of any kind should work, and yet for some reason, this logic is advanced as common sense political strategy.
While some people do change, many do not, and it's not on you to be responsible for how other people think. Part of fighting for social progress means recognizing that some people will never accept you. They will go to their graves bitter and hateful. There are countless politicians, family members, and former friends with whom we will never receive closure, no matter how palatably we frame our words.
Unless you are the one spreading this hatred, this moral panic is not your fault. You are never responsible for others choosing to hate your existence for something as intrinsic as your gender, your sex, your race, or any other aspect of your identity.
And to think any differently is delusional.
About the author
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.