This is the blog about the transgender phenomenon, by a socialist critic. Discussion and constructive criticism are welcome.
Transgender individuals are trying to live a life that feels better for them, in the process defying the idea that we are naturally feminine or masculine based on our biology. As a result trans people risk harassment, bashings and sometimes murder by backwoods haters. Their rights are supported by the Left, most feminists, and most lesbians and gays. The Christian Right has rallied against them, as part of a wider campaign against anyone outside traditional, biology-based, heterosexual identities.
Yet everyone else seems to be on board. Trans rights are promoted by governments, CEOs, public authorities, and the mass media, including the right wing Murdoch empire. They are championed by an extraordinarily wide coalition stretching from the far Left to sections of the US Republican Party. Support from the elite and the Right is based on the potential of the trans trend to further their own interests. For while it challenges biology-based sex stereotypes, the trans trend does not challenge sex stereotypes as such – in fact transgender thinking is founded on sex role typecasting, for when someone transitions from one gender to the other, they have little or nothing but stereotypes to define them in their new status. Trans ideology also reframes the whole issue of discontent with sexual identity, from something that affects everyone, and demands deep social change, to something that affects only a small group, and demands only that we accept diversity. This makes the trans phenomenon a very useful way for the elite to maintain conservative ideas in a changing world. As Marx said, the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class, and it is the elite’s way of looking at the trans issue that prevails. The conservative elements of the trans phenomenon are also advanced by many trans activists. The problems are these:
- mass media massively ramps up the sex stereotyping aspect of the trans trend, turning it at times into a carnival-like celebration
- critics who try to point this out have at times been silenced by trans activists, supported by the corporate media; the concept of ‘hater’ has been degraded by trans activists and supporters, used to create a mood of fear that silences progressive-minded critics
- trans activists make certain demands that reinforce women’s oppression
- media and public institutions present transgender identity as the definitive or only alternative to mainstream traditional sex roles, concealing the option of simply living a freer life without reference to gender
- instead of social change to push back stereotypes, trans ideology calls for personal change: the foot must change, not the shoe; instead of pointing out that something deeply wrong in society must change, it calls only for acceptance of diversity
- children and teens discontented with traditional gender roles are being told that trans identity is the only alternative: a high-stakes alternative leading toward surgery, infertility and a lifetime on costly drugs
- there are also questions to be asked as to whether the transgender trend is being used at times to channel young people away from gay or lesbian identities.
There is a different way to oppose biology-based stereotypes of the girly-girl and red-meat guy: to let males as males and females as females throw off stereotypes and live freer lives just as they are. I think most trans people would have no problem with this; they might even see it as vaguely allied to their own approach. It was once a commonplace among leftists and feminists. Yet we rarely hear of this approach, for it is not what the elite want people to hear. The Left does not challenge them, for it has surrendered a great deal of ground on this issue.