Today’s anti-trans activism is just old-fashioned reaction all dressed up
Ten Tell-Tale Signs
If you’ve been following the increasingly frenzied attacks by anti-trans ideologues on trans people, you will likely, by now, have spotted a certain disconnect between their claims to represent some sort of actual progressive politics and reality. In fact, whether you consider ideology, tactics or funding, there is scarcely a wafer of difference between transphobes and Men’s Rights Activists. Still not convinced? Here is a handy guide.
According to Nietzsche: “if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you”.
More colloquially, it was Orwell who, in the closing lines of Animal Farm, warned starkly of the dangers of assimilation. The pigs — at the beginning of his story, idealistic revolutionaries eventually sold out to those they revolted against.
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
Meanwhile, over in transphobia central a somewhat similar process appears to be at work. Here are ten tell-tale signs that the anti-trans are now scarcely distinguishable from Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs).
1. They are Fascist/Nazi adjacent
Let’s start with the big one. Before anyone starts quoting Godwin, anti-trans ideology has never been a stranger to exterminationist principles. One of its founding texts, the Transsexual Empire, suggests that transsexualism needs to be “morally mandated” out of existence. Author, Janice Raymond has since claimed this does not mean wiping out trans folk.
Perhaps not. But check out recent anti-trans campaigns around trans healthcare, and the glee with which many have responded to warnings of what this will do to trans people, physically and mentally, young and old alike. Whatever Raymond might have intended, her ideological descendants have taken her rather more literally.
2. Lack of empathy
This sort of goes without saying, and is directly implied by the above. Interrupting HRT will cause severe problems for trans people. Mental health issues for some, with suicide as one potential outcome: for others a premature and painful death. Their response? How dare trans folk “weaponise” death and suicide! And where is OUR sympathy for the parents and relatives of those driven to suicide by their own intransigence?
An odd one, when you think that many of those behind anti-trans campaigns allegedly women. Here, though, is the logical knot they have tied themselves in. Comment on a “real” woman’s physical appearance and you are damned for all eternity as chauvinist pig. But if you are one of the enlightened ones, it is perfectly OK to go to town on trans appearance. And if women who don’t fit societal norms get dunked on as collateral? Tough!
4. Dodgy Funding: even dodgier allies
A lot of the money pouring into anti-trans campaigns comes from the Right, the Far Right, and extreme conservative Christian groups… That is partly because the heavy lifting in most anti-trans campaigns is done by groups like CitizenGo or the Heritage Foundation: both conservative and Christian. But as shared platforms, public statements and very obvious seed funding reveal: when it comes to a choice between support for the likes of Trump and trans people, Trump wins, every time.
A favourite tactic of MRAs and anti-trans alike is swamping anyone and everyone who dares to disagree with them. Work for the NSPCC (or NHS or a local authority) and dare to say something pro-trans. Then stand back, as 1,000 or more social media posts come swinging down the road to call you out.
This is very similar to the attacks that pro-Life campaigners used to make on abortion clinics, with similar results. Some people just cannot take the heat. So when, inevitably, they walk away, their media mouthpieces respond with facile claims about support for abortion/trans people fading.
It really helps to use bots, as this excellent Twitter thread demonstrates. With added graphics.
Also relevant here (it almost deserves an extra point of its own…but then we’d have ELEVEN tell-tale signs) is the way the anti-trans have picked up on the much favoured Christian tactic of using litigation to swamp courts and wear down public bodies through sheer legal attrition. As they are doing now over any trans-positive guidance issued to schools.
Anti-trans movements and ideology are really, really male-dominated. That’s all about the tactics used, and well before any convergence — as some studies have suggested — between male and female behavioural patterns in activist communities. More broadly, it reflects the dominance of anti-trans activism by established church and far right organisations, as well as the way in which anti-trans groups just love to set up high profile men to act as figureheads.
7. Rejection of agency
A key tenet of feminism, since forever, has been support for agency. Much campaigning has been based on seeking to break down barriers to agency for individual women when it comes to control of fertility and personal medical treatment. It goes without saying that recent attempts to roll back agency for trans teens has a direct read across to all teens. As for the suggestion in some anti-trans circles that young people cannot take life-changing decisions until they are 25 or older…Andrea Dworkin must be spinning in her grave!
8. Think of the Children
Corollary to this protectionist approach to agency is that MRA’s and anti-trans campaigners alike are very eager to support and sustain a highly traditional view of the family. Parents take decisions and children: well, children are mostly seen and not heard.
Hence the obsession with “safeguarding”, or safety in schools. Superficially admirable, the reality, is that this obsession, like QAnon conspiracy theories, is built on paranoia. It is an approach shared with groups whose entire political analysis is predicated on the analysis of a nebulous group of progressives dedicated to undermining the family and, hence, wider society.
9. Exaggerated slight
Over decades, the anti-trans tendency has been consistently aggressive. Speak with trans people who first came out in the 90s, or noughties, and there is a remarkable consistency to experience. Personal attacks whenever possible: doxxing, designed to lose people jobs, friends, families.
Then there is the promotion of violence, echoed recently by anti-trans campaigners encouraging football supporters and bikers to attack trans women physically. These are commonplace. But they are nothing next to the Shock! Horror! should trans folk dare to respond. Riposte verbally, and we are extremist, misogynist and any other ist they can reach for. React in kind, and we are instantly painted as violent, unreasonable.
All of which leads to the final overlap between anti-trans activists and MRAs. These are very often damaged people, who have, in their own lives, been subject to abuse and unpleasantness. Sympathy, though, must be tempered by the fact that rather than deal with their own hurt or, alternatively, campaign positively for women’s rights, they have chosen to target one of the few groups in society on whom they are able to vent their spleen with little to no comeback. In short, anti-trans campaigners and MRAs alike are frequently bullies, with varying degrees of self-awareness.
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We began with piggery. So let’s end with some. You can put lipstick on a chauvinist pig, but you can’t hide the male chauvinist behind it. Or in modern parlance, the MRA. For good or ill, anti-trans activism is little more than a splinter and an outcrop of Men’s Rights Activism. A convenient figleaf.
Pretending that it is anything more is the height of self-delusion.