“And i would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling…activists!”
Mainstream media are very keen to parcel the world up into “concerned people” (good) and activists (very bad). This is a not too subtle attempt to divide and dismiss genuine objections to systemic oppressions. Don’t fall for it!
Are you now or have you ever been…an activist? Have you been standing up for your rights or the rights of your community? Well, stop it at once! You are a bad person. At least, that’s what the massed ranks of Keir Starmer, Donald Trump and the Daily Mail (and Times and Telegraph) reckon.
Regarding trans people, the trope is now reflex for some journalists. As reflex — or perhaps reflux — as vomiting on the pavement after a particularly hard working lunch. Or selling your principles for a by-line in one of the racier broadsheets.
Those darn activists!
Just last week, for instance, Gillian Phillip kicked off in the Mail about the “violent, hate-filled language that has become chillingly familiar to anyone who has had the temerity to question the prevailing orthodoxy of the transgender activist brigade”. Meanwhile, over in the Times, James Kirkup contributed a piece that totally lived up to its headline: “Trans activists hate Rowling because she’s a woman”.
Why do they print this stuff? For starters, it allows commentators to put the boot into minorities without appearing to do so. Who us? Having a go at trans people? Or black people? Or any other sort of people? Nah. We’re just calling out the bad ones.
The definition is infinitely flexible.
It allows them to load the least acceptable behaviours of the most fringe elements of a community onto anyone who is actually doing anything. Because there are a lot of people out on social media who are hurting, reeling under the constant bullying and erasure. They lash out. Then, these disconnected individuals, with no great linkage to mainstream activism, become stand-in for everyone else.
Being polite will never be enough. Because whatever concession you make so as to appear reasonable, they will be along a moment later asking for another.
Remember threats to shut down the working class museum in Salford? No. Nor do I. Covering the “story” at the time, I spoke to senior members of staff there. They were clear that they had received no threats.
But a prominent gender critic knew better: she’d seen some random individual (in the USA, no less) fulminating about the museum and encouraging people to shut it down. So clearly this was a trans activist thing
Or remember the Hastings bomb threat? The one that never was? That’s right. This is yet another incident now part of gender crit mythology: the time that “trans activists” sought to shut down a meeting by one of their cis-women-only groupuscules. But what threat? A young guy, who claimed to work in Hastings (and commute there from Wales!) tweeted how he’d seen people plotting to bomb the event. So he felt it his public duty to warn the police.
Yet no evidence was ever seen. Was he even trans? The consensus is not, since his user accounts tracked back to a young cis male gamer in the States (again) with a history of hanging round right-wing sites. But no matter: this was the sort of stuff that trans activists do. So it was added to the charge sheet.
Divide and rule
It is also divisive. Last week, Diana Thomas, who weekly regales cis Telegraph readers with tales of her transition, popped up with an opinion piece. It was headlined, provocatively: “No wonder many women feel bullied by trans activists”
Oh, Diana! So early in transition and so little grounding in how the cis gaze deals with trans folk! How tempting must be the siren calls of nationwide fame — not to mention the micro-fortune accruing from a regular weekly column.
Though it does not surprise me. A few weeks back, I wrote a piece for another national paper. I called out gender crit ideology, and was asked to condemn trans activists. For balance! Or if I had issues with that, could I call out just the bad ones. (In the end, I didn’t: but the pressure was there).
Or take Keir Starmer. (Please: somebody take Keir Starmer!) He recently made some crass comments about Black Lives Matter being an important “moment”, as opposed to the much dodgier “movement”. This looked very much like clumsy attempt to buy into the duality of “black people good, black activists bad”, and to distance himself from the latter.
Even where most of those actively involved in campaigning dismiss this duality, it divides and harms incipient activism. For, like the scare tactics of Senator Joe McCarthy in the 50’s, it splits progressive causes: on the one hand, those who are committed, whatever the cost: on t’other, those who don’t want to be seen as baddies!
Reactionary battle cry
Conversely, this focus on “activists” is rallying call for those who would rather stuff all this progressive folderol back in its box.Get out onto the streets or we will be over-run! That’s why US vigilante patrols are out in response to scare stories about antifa setting fires (no, that’s the gender revealers, dear). Why, too, not that long ago anti-trans campaigners were putting out messages in Manchester insinuating that young girls needed to be protected from trans people.
Do those who foment these untruths really believe this garbage? Do they know they are making it up? Likely a bit of both. Whatever: just last week, Channel 4 News included a pro-Trump commentator who stated as fact that BLM protesters were paid to go to demos.
That chimes with their branding spontaneous movements as orchestrated by shady behind-the-scenes string-pullers. Or Trump’s plan to go after the antifa organisation. The idea that George Soros is directly funding trans activism is both hilarious and scary. Because it is SO ridiculous. Yet out there, no longer just on the fringes of Q-Anon or mumsnet, are people who believe this.
Just as in Italy,across the EU, the growing right-wing backlash against la gender teoria has significant advocates claiming it is all some sort of progressive plot — by gays, trans folk, and radical feminists — to undermine the family and bring in communism by the back door.
We live in a system and a society wherein the factory setting is systemic violence against minorities: all minorities, whether black, LGBTQ, disabled or other.
Trans activists: the “trans lobby”, cabal, ideology; these all furnish a target and an enemy to fight against. Much easier than owning to the fact that your own position is itself fundamentally ideological — often evangelical Christian, occasionally a reductive and back-to-the-stone-age feminism. Sexier, too than admitting that your primary goal is to resist minority demands for basic civil rights.
Of course, activists exist. I am an accidental activist, forced to become one because I just happen to be trans. And the longer I am trans, the less time or patience I have for cis nonsense. When I see trans people hurting, abused by incompetent cis-centric systems, I cannot stand by and say nothing.
Get out: be loud; be proud!
The best activism is spontaneous and from the heart. It is delivered with fire in one’s spirit and sometimes, as at Stonewall, with brick through the window. It will not, should not, be neatly tailored to respectability because the truth is, no activism will ever be respectable enough.
We live in a system and a society wherein the factory setting is systemic violence against minorities: all minorities, whether black, LGBTQ, disabled or other. But point that out: or respond to state and reactionary violence with any less than a tug of the forelock and YOU are bad. Being polite will never be enough. Because whatever concession you make so as to appear reasonable, they will be along a moment later asking for another.
Condemn this hashtag, that tweet, and they will be back next week asking where you stand on Munroe Bergdorf’s forthright comments (right behind her and them!).
So stand up. Get angry. And if folks accuse you of being a trans activist, do not be afraid to wear that label with pride.