Home » Uncategorized » Why the Left does not challenge transgender conservatism

Why the Left does not challenge transgender conservatism

Why does the far Left not oppose the conservative and sexist aspects of the transgender trend? None of the rationales that I have heard, or have come across online, ring true:

  • The feminist critique of transgender does not rest on biological or cultural determinism, but on opposition to sex stereotyping and the demand that we recognise oppressive female socialisation – ideas that the far Left shares with these feminists, but chooses not to apply to the trans issue.
  • It is not a matter of pontificating to trans people about their ideological imperfections, but recognising that neoliberal capitalism is promoting the transgender trend for its own reasons.
  • Opposing sexist transgender ideology does not mean caving in to the religious Right, any more than supporting Brexit meant caving in to UKIP, or opposing Russian genocide in Syria means capitulating to US imperialism (though it does highlight the need to distinguish yourself from the warmongers and racists).

So what is the real reason for the Left behaving as it does? Is it the result of sexism from socialist men? Apart from anything else, their line on transgender is little different to that of most feminist women. Fear of isolation? We are talking about people who support open borders for migration.

But it is one thing to be isolated from mainstream public opinion, another to be despised by the sort of people that you are trying to work with and recruit. In the Left’s milieu it is widely agreed that “gender identity” is real, innate, and essentially separate from your sex of birth. Once you believe in gender identity, you are also likely to believe that those denying its existence are bigots, comparable to lesbophobes and homophobes. For far Left groups to point out that “gender identity” is ultimately an internalisation of sex role stereotyping, and to campaign against its oppressive implications for women, is likely to make them pariahs, in the short term at least. For one Left group alone to challenge this orthodoxy would be a gift to its rivals. Here, perhaps, is one fundamental reason for the Left’s position, whatever rationales might cover it.

The demoralising impact of neoliberalism

Context is crucially important. This debate occurs against a backdrop of persistently low levels of working class struggle in most of the western world, conditions in which Marxist groups have battled very hard to maintain membership and morale. The Left has been becalmed by the quiescence of the working class during 35 years of neoliberalism. This has hit the best sections of the Left most of all: sections that do not look to trade union bureaucrats, dictators, or ossified dogmas, but to the real live working class as the way forward for the world.

The fall in working class political activism has many causes. Workers lost confidence with the onset of high unemployment in the mid-1970s. As unions became more highly centralised and legalistic in the 1980s grass roots union organisation rotted away. Thatcher and Reagan inflicted huge, game-changing defeats. The fall of the USSR demoralised Stalinists in the western workers’ movement, people who had, for all their problems, formed the backbone of much of the industrial Left. All this while, globalisation and fragmentation of the workforce eroded bargaining power.

The union bureaucracy often tries to snuff out industrial campaigns before they build up too much momentum, to maintain their own control. Under the conditions described above, this tendency has had a particularly deadening effect. Meanwhile rising workers’ movements in the so-called developing countries have rarely as yet moved from economic to political demands. Despite pockets of intense industrial  and political action in countries such as Greece, the international working class just doesn’t look that much like the key agent of social transformation, and this will probably continue in the short term at least.

These difficulties don’t change what needs to be done in relation to the transgender issue. I believe that the Left needs to seek alliances with trans-critical feminists to challenge the conservative and sexist side of trans ideology, and highlight the capitalist interest supporting it. This might create a rallying point for those working class women, and men, who currently feel uneasy about the transgender trend, but have been silenced.


  1. Thank you for this piece. Here is the Women’s Liberation Front’s amicus brief in support of the Supreme Court accepting certiorari in Gloucester v. GG. http://womensliberationfront.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/WoLF-Supreme-Court-amicus-brief.pdf


  2. FeistyAmazon says:

    I certainly agree with THAT. So many butchy young women Ive known who are being pushed to transition rather than suffer the sexism us fierce Butch Dykes do. We got first into the Trades, we go into the factory environments , Butch Lesbians are terribly oppressed in the world of work which is WHY so many of us chose nontraditional better paying nontraditional.jobs,”mens” work, with benefits and far better pay.

    But this next crop thinks that their freedom.comes at the end of a testosterone shot and /or surgery to remove their breasts so they can “pass” as males, and some have stated straight out to get treated with far more respect and better pay “passing” as males. Look to the money, the gender clinics, doctors, pharmaceuticals, psychiatrists, psychologists, ect making the big bucks off all these surgeries and drugs/lifelong hormones to continue the illusion…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] accommodate transgender concerns. How can the far Left have made such an abject capitulation? As previously discussed they have caved in to immense pressure from identity politics. But why are identity-politics […]


  4. […] politics shows how effectively the trans phenomenon works as a Trojan horse within the Left, as previously discussed on this […]


  5. […] As for what has caused the ebb of working class struggle, O’Neill mentions the shift from an industrial to service economy. This is probably the most important underlying factor in the continuing passivity of western working classes, since service industries have historically been hardest to organize. I have discussed other causes elsewhere. […]


  6. […] right wing ideology was absorbed into identity politics, and from there it permeated the far left, weakened, split and demoralized by decades of neoliberalism and the political retreat of the working class. This wide right-to-left […]


  7. Philip Ferguson says:

    I agree with almost all you have written here. The bit I disagree on is your assessment of Third World workers – they are politically far ahead of us. There has been an historic shift -most of the industrial working class is there, the most intense class struggle is there, and we are now very much drifting in their wake. I’d recommend John Smith’s ‘Imperialism in the 20th century’. John was a British blue-collar worker for decades, knows his KM and has is very rooted in reality.


    • freerlives says:

      Thanks Phil, I’m glad that most the article resonates. You’re right that workers outside the rich nations are now often ahead of first world workers politically. I did not make this point very well. What I meant was that the advances of workers in oppressed or developing countries have not yet restored the sense of workers’ political agency that spread internationally during the 1960s-70s, and allowed small Marxist grouplets to grow and gain influence on the basis of their politics.


  8. […] alien presence has gained a hold in the party through the impact of neoliberalism. The SWP does not look for guidance to left wing MPs, nor to left union officials and their […]


  9. […] an attack on working women, for reasons previously discussed on this blog (here in general terms, here in terms of the far left). So small are the ranks of the gender critical left that many […]


  10. […] Postmodernism arose out of the ebb in class struggle that set in during the late 1970s, and the political demoralization of the workers movement and the left which followed. In this environment the old calls for “one struggle, one fight”, centred around […]


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