Australian transwoman Cate McGregor – Order of Australia awardee, a significant military figure, and former cricket commentator – has written an article discussing “the trauma and challenge of gender transition” in The Weekend Australian Magazine (16-17 November 2019 p24-27; paywall access). McGregor talks for example of the “recurrence of my repressed gender dysphoria in late 2011,” and how “I have flirted with self-extinction” ever since.
The article mentions how, in 2018, McGregor was asked by shock-jock Alan Jones to deliver the Anzac commemorative address at a tiny town near McGregor’s birthplace in Queensland. Anzac Day celebrates the role of Australian and New Zealand soldiers in World War One and later conflicts. Their bravery and self-sacrifice is used in part to conceal the fact that these were grotesque wars waged for empire rather than freedom and democracy. But the key role of this special day is to build the myth of an “Anzac spirit” – courage and high ideals dashed with irreverence and “mateship” – as a core feature of Australian national identity.
McGregor’s speech was well received by the mixed crowd: “on this day Australia lived up to its spirit. Despite the detractors, Anzac still touches the hearts of the vast majority of us… In commemorating the dead of real wars, we transcend the arid, futile culture wars…. I suspect that every political view on the spectrum was represented in that crowd; from the rainbow flags I gleaned that most sexual preferences and gender identities were, too.” McGregor wants to incorporate transgender people within the Anzac spirit.
The Murdoch stable in Australia
Of special interest is the media platform for this tale: the weekend edition of Murdoch’s national flagship, The Australian. As previously discussed on this blog, the Murdoch media in Australia has had a particular role in the trans trend. This takes two forms: there is a rough division of labour between its national and state based newspapers. The latter, with huge circulations, present as the voice of the common person. Individual columnists may be right wing, others moderate, but overall they seek to connect with the mass of ordinary people around current issues, explaining them in conservative terms to pull readers rightwards. Occasionally this also means educating readers in new ideas they should absorb.
As part of this charter they have propagandized time and again for gender ideology, explaining to readers how some boy (and maybe his mother too) knew deep down that he was a girl, due to his love for all things girly (eg here, or this paywall article which tells us how a transwoman “used to envy the girls at primary school, their freedom to wear dresses and express their femininity”). I believe that the real underlying message in all these stories is the naturalization of female stereotypes. Women are being told that they have a feminine gender identity, aligned with their female bodies, and are therefore innately imbued with the tendencies to self-decorate, be charming, etc etc. Stale, confining typecasts are freshened up for the modern, critical world.
The Australian on the other hand plays to a constituency that is already firmly right wing, providing it with news and resources for arguments with liberals. It has denounced the trans trend’s entanglements with identity politics, political correctness, and the left. For these reasons it led an attack on Safe Schools, an anti-bullying program that brings gender ideology into the classroom (and which had been approvingly cited by Murdoch’s conservative Victorian paper, the Herald Sun). The Australian’s attacks have been worn as a badge of honour by the pro-gender left, using them to affirm gender ideology’s progressive credentials. To my knowledge, however, it has never attacked the central, sexist idea of gender identity.
Seemingly the Murdoch empire wants to separate the “good part” of the trans trend – its naturalization of oppressive female stereotypes – from its “bad” attachments to the left. McGregor is well placed to help here. The stable’s NSW paper, the Daily Telegraph, once quoted McGregor’s initial opposition to the Safe Schools program: “Safe Schools teaches a derivative of Queer Theory, which I believe leads trans people into a blind alley.” The recent piece in the Weekend Australian Magazine feels like a continuation of this approach, letting right wing readers know that gender ideology is something to embrace.