(Via Vanity Fair)
“Authoritarian transgender politics” must be immediately nominated for The Worst Oxymoron of 2015 Award. If no award exists, I for one am in favour of setting it up. This quote is the title of a Spectator piece by Brendan O’Neill, his latest assault on the disenfranchised and misunderstood, with his second, third, perhaps fourth public attack on transgender people, whose existence he completely erases in every word he writes. O’Neill’s verbal assault/article on transgender politics is written in response to washed-up somebody-or-other Drake Bell’s now-deleted Tweet, where he stated “Sorry… Still calling you Bruce” before hastily deleting it in the face of public opposition. Here is what O’Neill had to say about the outrage towards Bell’s Tweet, and about Caitlyn Jenner in general:
“What the Cult of Caitlyn confirms, beyond a doubt, is that there is nothing progressive in trans politics. It is shrill, censorious, unreal, demanding compliance, punishing dissent. Progressives should reject it. Jesus was not the Son of God, [and] Bruce Jenner is not a woman”
To borrow from O’Neill’s beloved religious analogies, here we have the quintessential example of a right-wing libertarian who thinks free speech is above all criticism and recompense, that the words that fly from your mouth or keyboard are entirely consequenceless and ought not to be shushed for any reason, ever ever ever. Human dignity, compassion for others, all can be sacrificed at the Altar of Liberty, which must grant us the power to say vile things about transgender people, such as calling them “a Virgin Mary with testicles” as O’Neill does.
But never must the Altar of Liberty grant us the right to correct people when they make linguistic mistakes, because that would be “authoritarian”. For the likes of O’Neill, free speech consists of criticising trans people as attention-seeking miscreants. Rebuking those kinds of criticisms is, sadly, not free speech, and is merely some gross authoritarian attempt on behalf of transgender people to silence the opposition. Free speech is apparently a one-way street upon which O’Neill and his posse can ram their intolerance down at 100mph or more, sticking their proverbial fingers in their ears and shouting “authoritarianism” whenever people on social media praise a woman for coming out as transgender. A conception of free speech so fraught with contradiction that is is indeed Orwellian, to again borrow from O’Neill’s article.
This is transphobia of the worst kind, the kind that attempts to take a relatively straightforward issue of compassion and acceptance and smother it in the soil of individual liberty and the rights of the straighty-whitey male. On a normal view, among we who do not think we have the right to judge minorities, a transgender person is one whose brain does not match their body, who is living a life often in suffering and fear, who desperately wants to break free from their own body. The pain is unimaginable, and from the point of view of a cisgender person, almost impossible to fully understand. This pain is entirely erased by the nasty brigade of right-wing libertarians, who feel they have the inalienable right to condemn and criticize, humiliate and ridicule people like Caitlyn to the point of despair. Thank goodness she has endured a life of fame, that she is equipped with the skills to rebuff some of the spite and heartache. For trans people who lack this skill, and lack the fame that can act as a shield, they tend not to be so lucky.
The studies are quite definitive. Transgender kids experience far more bullying at school, are more likely to self-harm, are more prone to mental illnesses, are more likely to be harassed and beaten, and are overwhelmingly more likely to commit suicide. This is not documented in some dusty academic book at the corner of a library, this is public knowledge readily available to anybody with access to the internet. O’Neill is well aware of the hatred and danger transgender people face, but instead of lending his support, he chooses to tear down a public representative of transgender acceptance with petty insults and vicious political denunciations.
Shame indeed. But for all his protestations of ‘what about muh free speeeeetzh!!’, O’Neill is not taking some principled libertarian stand against “authoritarian transgender politics”. He is in fact just participating in a circle-jerk schadenfreude exercise with others in response to a blossoming adoration and love for somebody who had the courage to put everything at risk to be who they are. Caitlyn, like most if not all trans people, risked her reputation and her family life to be who she is. The press ridiculed and demonized her, people issued death threats, and now what we see is one more straight white voice adding itself to the chorus of spitefulness in the face of love and acceptance.
If nothing else, O’Neill is horribly unoriginal, and only a misanthropist would respond to the warmth Caitlyn has received with such malice. But still, what can we expect from a man who seriously believes trans activists are experimenting on children? How do you even begin to change the mind of someone living with such a conspiratorial mindset?