Well, That Was Quite a Statement!

Michael Knowles, right wing commentator of the Daily Wire, said at CPAC this past Saturday, “There can be no middle way in dealing with transgenderism. It is all or nothing.” He went on to say, “Transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” I don’t mean to alarm you or anything, but since “transgenderism” doesn’t exist without transgender people, what he is advocating sounds more than a little like genocide. In fact, historically this is exactly how hate speech ushers in genocide.

Knowles is not the only one making inflammatory statements. Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said gender affirming treatment is a “demonic assault on the innocence of our children.” Demonic? Seriously?

Texas has introduced over 100 bills in 2023 restricting transgender rights. By comparison, they introduced “only” 20 in 2018. Last year Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that classified age-appropriate gender affirming care for transgender youth as child abuse. He was in effect saying to parents, “We will take your child out of class and build a case that you’ve accessed gender affirming care for that child, and then we will remove your child from your home and charge you with a felony.” Note nowhere in that investigation is any concern about whether or not your child is actually transgender.

By classifying gender affirming care as child abuse, you also make individuals in a plethora of professions mandatory reporters, likely to lose their jobs, licenses, and freedom if they do not report such “abuse.”

Fifty-six percent of transgender youth have experienced suicidal ideation, compared to 20 percent of their cisgender peers, an alarming number in itself. Thirty-one percent of transgender teens have attempted suicide, compared to 11 percent of their cis peers.

It’s not just children’s rights that are being threatened. Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, told the New York Times that their goal is to ban transgender care for anyone of any age.

The fight against trans rights isn’t so much about Republicans as it is about evangelicals. Over 60 percent of Republicans believe transgender people should have the same civil rights as anyone else. But 84 percent of evangelicals believe gender is immutably determined at birth and over 60 percent believe we already give transgender people too many rights.

We’ve come a long way since I led a conversation with a group of megachurch pastors about ten years ago in which the pastors talked about making room within their congregations for transgender people. Their reasoning was simple, if inaccurate. They said, “The Bible speaks against homosexual behavior. It says nothing about being transgender.” But that was then.

Since 2016 gender dysphoria has become the leading flashpoint for the far right. Why? First, those seeking to retain waning power have always focused on the most vulnerable people, minorities who are powerless. Transgender people make up only .58 percent of the population. As a group, we hold very little power or influence. According to a Pew Research Study, only 42 percent of Americans know someone who is out as a transgender person. There are fewer than 100 of us holding elected positions at any level of US government. (It is an honor to be among that 100.)

Another problem is that social pendulums perpetually swing from one extreme to the other. There are many, particularly in the academic world, who believe gender is purely a social construct. They say there is no predisposition before experience toward gendered behavior. Gender is only learned environmentally. It is my opinion that for the majority of the population there is a predisposition before experience to behavior identified with one gender or the other.

I do not believe gender is a social construct any more than I believe gender is immutably determined by medical personnel at birth. Both are distortions of a complex reality. Gender identity, like sexual identity, is on a spectrum, and it is rarely apparent early in life. At its earliest, gender identity awareness exists by three or four years of age, and sexual identity awareness by nine or ten.

While I thoroughly endorse children being able to explore their gender identity, when the day is over there will still be about .58 percent of people who are transgender. In some environments, six times that many adolescents currently identify as transgender. I believe the majority of those young people will eventually decide they are not transgender. Therefore, we do need to be cautious when prescribing estrogen, testosterone, or anti-androgens. Some effects are not reversible. While caution is appropriate, parents and medical professionals should make those determinations, not legislatures.

The greatest concerns I have are not about hormonal treatment. They are far more basic. They are about the overt hatred and vilification of the transgender community. Forty-one percent of transgender people will attempt suicide at some point in their lives.

Even those who have transitioned have higher than average suicidal ideation. Why? For 99 percent of them, it is not because they are not happy in their new gender. It is because of our society’s rejection of them, which results in internalized transphobia. Forbidding transitioning will not solve that problem. Stopping ridicule, bullying, and hate speech will solve that problem. Stopping anti-trans laws from being signed into law will solve that problem. Helping this minority ┬áthrive will solve that problem.

Comments like that of Michael Knowles, Tom Fitton, and Terry Schilling (Hmm, interesting, all are white males) should alarm all Americans. Language that encourages radicals to pursue genocide cannot be tolerated. It is hate speech at its worst. It is time for trans allies, accomplices, and apprentices to speak up on our behalf. Enough is enough.