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.