Why the trans movement is so intolerant
Political self-pity is the new enemy of freedom.
Judy Blume had a lucky escape this weekend. The witchfinders very nearly got her. Her crime? She expressed solidarity with JK Rowling. ‘I love her’, she told The Sunday Times. ‘I am behind her 100 per cent as I watch from afar.’ Across social media, pitchforks were sharpened and torches lit at this news that Goody Blume was seen cavorting with the she-devil. Blume was branded a dumb ho and a bigot by the Be Kind mob. ‘Fuck Judy Blume’, some said. ‘Not Judy!’, cried others as they readied the stake, distressed to discover that this woman whose books they love does not share their sociopathic belief that it’s fine for JK Rowling to be threatened with rape and death for her sin of saying men aren’t women.
Mercifully, Blume won a last-minute reprieve. She saved herself by publicly swearing allegiance to the witchfinders’ religion. ‘I wholly support the trans community’, she said on Twitter. Even better, she said she ‘vehemently’ disagrees with ‘anyone who does not fully support equality and acceptance for LGBTQIA+ people’. Her comments to The Sunday Times had been taken out of context, she pleaded. She’d only intended to empathise with Rowling over her harassment online, not side with her blasphemous belief that people with penises are men. The torches were put out. Blume is pardoned. For now. It’s still not good that she sympathises with a ‘fucking fash transphobe’, the Be Kind set warned. But she isn’t herself a TERF and thus she’s spared cancellation. The witch lives.
This small scandal, this threatened felling of yet another woman for seeming to cavort with the TERFs, is a powerful reminder of the sheer intolerance of the trans lobby. We all know what would happen to Blume if she did come out as a believer in biology. She’d be labelled a hag, a phobe, scum. The upcoming film of her life would be boycotted. She would suffer the Macy Gray fate. When Gray committed the mortal transgression of saying that ‘just because you go change your parts doesn’t make you a woman’, she was ferociously unpersoned. Woke bros who’ve spent the past few years saying ‘Amplify black voices!’ gleefully shut down this uppity black woman. So Gray recanted. Her comments had been ‘grossly misunderstood’, she said. She swore allegiance to ‘LGBT+ communities’. Submerging yourself in the alphabet soup of gender ideology so that it might wash away your sin of wrongthink is your only hope of salvation in the modern Salem.
The Blume affair tells us much about cancel culture. It shows how omnipresent it is. We all, women especially, live under a Damocles sword of cancellation for the sin of believing men are not women. The speed with which that sword fell on Blume, only to be lifted following her plea of trans allyship, confirms it is always there, dangling, its very existence a warning to plebs not to speak out of turn.
The Blume spat also speaks to cancel culture’s chilling impact. If even one of the best-known authors in the Western world can feel the lick of the mob’s flames, what hope is there for the rest of us? Cancel culture’s grimmest achievement is not to drag down big guns – Rowling and Blume will always be okay – but to signal to the little folk what persecutions await them if they deviate from the new ideologies. ‘If we can make even Blume quake, imagine what we can do to you…’
We need to talk about trans intolerance. Censorship comes alarmingly naturally to trans activists and their allies in the institutions. Not one word of dissent, not a single utterance of biological fact, goes unpunished by the gender ideologues. So also this weekend, Graham Linehan was expelled from Twitter after a censorious swarm made complaints about him to Twitter HQ. What a spectacle: cosplay radicals pleading with the billionaire elites of Silicon Valley to rap the knuckles of a man who offended them. Linehan’s account was later reinstated.
Meanwhile, women Down Under are still being treated as social lepers for the crime of having attended one of Posie Parker’s Let Women Speak gatherings there. Moira Deeming MP was suspended by the misnamed Liberal Party for nine months after being seen with the devil. University of Melbourne professor Holly Lawford-Smith is being subjected to a vile campaign of harassment likewise for the sin of associating with Posie and for believing women are real. There are too many cases to mention in the UK of women being threatened with the sack, actually sacked, No Platformed from university campuses, shunned by polite society and in some cases physically assaulted for their wrongthink, their sinful speech, their temerity to express an idea that humanity held to be true for millenia: namely that there are two sexes, and one never becomes the other.
What is it about the trans lobby that makes it so unforgiving of opposition? It strikes me that this is a new species of censorship. One underwritten less by ideological arrogance than by hyper-fragility. Less by a dogmatic conviction that we are right and everyone else is wrong than by a brittle fear of the impact dissent might have on one’s entire being. Trans activists fear words to an extraordinary degree. Apparently ‘misgendering’ is an ‘act of violence’. Saying ‘he’ about a fella who thinks he’s a woman ‘causes violent harm’, they say. Gender-critical feminism is a ‘genocidal ideology’, we’re told, as if the mere words of women’s rights campaigners could wipe out an entire social group. Activists speak darkly of ‘trans erasure’.
Most egregiously of all, the trans set implies, or outright states, that the speechcrimes of the TERFs could cause more trans people to take their lives. Activists use exaggerated suicide stats essentially to say that every wicked woman who says biology is real is dicing with trans death. Indeed, the trans youth charity Mermaids once said it was ‘aware’ of ‘cases of self-harm and even attempted suicide following JK Rowling’s statements [on trans issues]’. Rowling speaks and people perish. Such is the power of the witch, so demonic are her words.
This dread of dissent, this mad belief that disagreement kills, shows what happens when the cult of fragility is taken to its logical conclusion. The modern trans lobby presents itself as the heir to the old great struggles for women’s suffrage and black civil rights, but in truth it is the opposite. It’s an anti-civil-rights movement. Not only because it is not very civil and doesn’t actually believe in rights (especially women’s rights and the right to free speech), but also because it embraces infantilisation rather than rejecting it. Every great social movement of the 20th century was at root a revolt against infantilisation. Suffragism was an uprising against society’s treatment of women as childlike creatures, against the idea that ‘Woman is emotional, and government by emotion quickly degenerates into injustice’. The anti-racist movement was a revolt against the bigoted belief that black people were beholden to ‘bestial passions’ that made them unfit for the cool deliberations of public life. Liberation from the prison of ‘immaturity’ was the great goal of progressive movements.
The trans lobby could not be more different. This is an entirely self-infantilising movement. Words hurt us, the wrong pronouns wound us, disagreement makes us want to die – these are their warped rallying cries. Where the old warriors for equality were determined to prove their fitness for public life, the trans set seems hell-bent on doing the opposite. Their hyper-sensitivity to words and ideas, their belief that not being able to use the women’s loo at work is a genocidal assault on their people, sends the message that they really aren’t cut out for public life. It’s not equality they want, it’s special measures: protection from offence, forcefielding from scientific truth, constant validation of their identity. When Rosa Parks sat at the front of the bus, it was a stirring statement of her right to engage in public life on equal terms with whites. When a ‘transwoman’ sits on a ladies’ toilet, it’s a statement of nothing more than his fragile-cum-conceited belief that public life must mould itself around his every delusional whim. Parks pursued social progress; trans activists prefer anti-social self-pity.
The trans lobby’s hyper-fragility does not mean it is a weak, non-threatening movement. On the contrary, we are now witnessing the fury of the fragile. The more that identitarian movements come to believe that words and ideas cause them immeasurable harm, the more they will seek to shut down every wrongthinker and every witch. After all, if dissent kills, it follows that dissent itself must be killed. Liberty is the true victim when victim culture rules.
Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy
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