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A friend on the Right?

Miranda Devine, a media commentator in Australia, says:

We now have a medical profession too cowardly to speak out against a trend in which parents are procuring questionable hormone therapy for their prepubescent children so they can change sexes.

She adds that physicians who are brave enough to watch and wait, to question and explore, rather than rush to endorse a child’s transition, are demonised as supporters of conversion therapy. Devine repeated her attack on childhood gender reassignment in a more recent article, where she points out that the sort of girls who used to be known as tomboys are now potential candidates for puberty blockers.

Some of her remarks in these articles could have come from a trans-critical progressive, but Devine (@mirandadevine) is explicitly and proudly on the Right. She is anti-abortion and an opponent of same-sex marriage. She rails against “permissiveness” and blames welfare for domestic violence (“end the welfare incentive for unsuitable women to keep having children to a string of feckless men”).

Her reference to tomboys is potentially misleading. She does not articulate any objection to sex role stereotypes. Her concern about the gender transitioning of children occurs within a conservative and traditionalist worldview. This comes out in her attack on Australia’s Safe Schools program.

Devine and the Safe Schools program

As discussed in a previous post, Safe Schools has a brief to make schools safe and inclusive for transgender and LGB students. “Disguised as an anti-bullying initiative,” Devine says, “the ‘Safe Schools’ program started a new sexual revolution under parents’ noses.” She and other conservatives have recently drawn blood, with the sacking of Safe Schools’ Marxist co-founder, Roz Ward (see here, here, and here).

Several things may be said about Safe Schools. Firstly, there is no question that bullying is a serious risk for LGB and transgender students, and is also suffered by other students simply because they don’t fit well with sex roles. This sort of bullying has driven some to suicide, one recent victim being Tyrone Unsworth, a feminine-oriented gay boy aged 13.

If the Safe Schools program took on sex stereotyping as such, it would not only create a safer and less stressful environment for lesbian, gay, and transgender students, it would offer wider assistance to feminine boys and masculine girls. And most subversively, it might open new possibilities to the great majority of children who have more or less accommodated to restrictive typecasts. But there is very little evidence of such a subversive approach on the Safe Schools website. Instead, discontent with stereotypes is overwhelmingly posed as the concern of a minority of students. This helps to explain why the program has wide and enthusiastic support from the neoliberal politicians of the Australian Labor Party (it is funded and championed by the Labor Government in Victoria) and from the less right wing sections of the Liberal Party.

But Devine attacks Safe Schools on different grounds: for “promoting the idea to school students that there is something wrong with the norms of heterosexuality and ‘binary’ sexes — male and female.”

Her “defence” of heterosexuality appears to be nothing but a complaint that the Safe Schools program affirms lesbian and gay identities. As for binary sexes, she does not present them as sites on which stereotypes are inscribed, through a lifetime of socialisation. She allows the reading public to understand them in traditional terms, in which chromosomes turn us naturally into feminine females and masculine males, and she approvingly quotes three doctors who declare that “human sexuality is ‘binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species'”.

The impact of the Right

Does it matter that she is right wing, as long as the warnings about childhood transitioning are put out there?  She is right that transgender ideology disseminated in schools will cruelly limit the life choices of young people if they end up sterilised by gender reassignment surgery and dependent on drugs for the rest of their lives. But any victories scored by the Devine and her friends against the transgender lobby will predominantly reinforce a conservative agenda, which is also an anti-woman and homophobic agenda. The anti-trans position of the Right also reinforces the storyline accepted by the great majority of leftists and liberals, which frames all opposition to transgender demands as bigotry.

By challenging the stifling consensus around transgender – extending as it does from the far Left to “moderates” in the US Republican Party – the Right may inadvertently create some space for truly oppositional arguments to be heard. That does not make them allies.

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2 Comments

  1. Yes right wing oppositions get doubts about trans out there in the media.

    A part of me that, I am ashamed of , just thinks that if the right uses trans to bash the left, feminism and LGB, well they have it coming to them.

    Thinking a bit leads me to realise that a lot of young women are, in part, pushed into trans by the misogyny and homophobia of the right wing and will be pushed further.

    On a political level trans loves to be portrayed as a liberation struggle, as the vanguard of the struggle for human rights. Attacks from the right do not worry them. People in trans activism aren’t there to make things better, its virtue signalling and empire building.

    So yes I’m very ambivalent about right wing allies.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Emily says:

    I am a Catholic and I am conservative in regards to the social issues like abortion and marriage. There are plenty of political positions that I take that don’t fit with the conservative mold, though. I’m used to disagreement when it comes to supporting government assistance for the poor or welcoming immigrants. But, I don’t see these disagreements as a hindrance to building coalitions and collaborating for a shared goal. Standing together with unexpected allies lends strength to a movement. Though it’s important to make clear what it is that you agree upon, it’s also important to recognize where you disagree. I think isue activism is completely possible between groups that normally don’t ally and I think it’s a step towards a deeper friendship and understanding between those groups. I laud the efforts of radical feminists that oppose gender ideology and I will stand with them whenever I am able or invited to do so. Our nation’s children – whether they come from conservative or liberal families – deserve to have the help of as many of us as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

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