Why the Trans Hate?, Part I
About a month ago, we ran an item headlined
"Trans Is The New Abortion?,"
which was basically a shorter version of the item above, noting that Donald Trump was getting ready to make anti-trans
rhetoric a big part of his platform for 2024.
That weekend, we got
a letter from P.R. in Arvada
about the subject; that letter began thusly:
Your item "Trans Is The New Abortion" got me wondering why people hate trans people so much. One of the biggest
changes I have made in myself was becoming an atheist (a very long time ago). One thing that forced me to do was to
justify my feelings towards others. There was no longer a book or "pillar of the community" I could look towards to
justify hating groups of people. The result of that was a quick realization that my previous negative opinions of other
groups were not based on anything I truly believed, and so I went from dislike of other groups to a more apathetical—I
don't care about the label you have been given, I either like you as a person or I don't.
After running through a few possibilites, all of them deemed unsatisfactory, P.R. concluded:
I can't figure out why anyone would truly be against trans people. Maybe someone can explain to me why they feel trans
people should be discriminated against and how they justify it. The trans people I personally know are some of the
nicest people I have the pleasure of knowing. They have had a lot of hate thrown at them and their journey has been far
from easy. I may not truly understand what they went through or why they made the decisions they did but I do know it
wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing or to have a chance at winning a medal or some other petty reason. Just once it would
be nice to see people on the right stand up and tell their representatives that they do not support this kind of
baseless hatred of people. Of course, maybe it isn't baseless, and they can actually justify their position. Somehow I
doubt it, though.
We actually got a sizable number of good and thoughtful responses, a bit too much for the mailbag, actually. And
so, we're going to run some of 'em right now:
- R.L. in Alameda, CA: P.V. of Arvada wrote a very earnest inquiry into why people hate
trans people so much. It is so thorough that I actually am still not sure if this is a real inquiry or a bit of satire
to highlight how ridiculous the position of the haters is. My short answer to P.V.'s inability to figure this out is
that they are making the mistake of using logic. Because, based on logic, there is simply no reason to hate anyone. They
can't find an answer because, of course, there is no logic involved in the choice coming from the right to hate. In my
mind it is simply a knee-jerk reaction to people who are different or "other."
A deeper reason, in my mind, is that the right relies on fear to ignite their base. They have no policy positions, no
desire to be public servants, and no inclination to make people's lives better. So they need a boogeyman. They need
something to rile up their base and keep them donating and voting. In the past it has been gay people, people with AIDS,
Jews, Black people, Brown people, immigrants, migrants (pouring over the border), gay people who want to get married,
anyone not on their team who can be accused of being a pedophile, Disney (remember Black Little Mermaid), animated
fictional characters that look like M&Ms, and so on. Right now, trans folks are their main target. As more Americans
come to understand that no parent is transitioning their son into a daughter in order to win a state championship, that
no man can claim that, "today I am a woman so I can go into the Ladies room to stalk children" (which is already
illegal), and that they are not victims because someone else transitioned, the Right will find a new boogeyman.
- R.L.S. in Portland, ME: I read with interest the letter of P.R. in Arvada
regarding hatred of trans people, which expressed the author's confusion trying to understand why people hate. It is a
good question, not only about the LGBTQ community, but Black people, Jews, and any culturally targeted group. Why does anyone
Currently I am working on the story of my family's experience during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, and often ask the
same question. How did Christians in my family's hometown in Bavaria, who had known my family for generations, turn
against them with hatred?
Recently I came across
from the National Bureau of Economic Research (lead
author from UCLA!) which looked at the persistence of cultural traits. In it the authors correlate the prevalence and
locations of pogroms in towns during the period of the Black Death in the 14th century with the rise of the Nazism in
Germany in the early 20th century. The plague killed between one-third and one-half of the general population. Its cause
was unknown, and many blamed the Jews for poisoning the wells. Cities all over Germany witnessed mass killings of their
They conclude: "At the time of the Black Death, Jews were burned in towns and cities all over Germany—but not in all.
In this paper, we demonstrate that the same places that saw violent attacks on Jews during the plague also showed more
anti-Semitic attitudes over half a millennium later: They engaged in more anti-Semitic violence in the 1920s, were more
likely to vote for the Nazi Party before 1930, had more citizens writing letters to an anti-Semitic newspaper [Der
Stuürmer], organized more deportations of Jews, and saw more attacks on synagogues during the 'Night of Broken
Glass' [Kristallnacht] in 1938."
Apparently, cultural traits are deeply embedded and unfortunately persistent. That such deep-seated hatred could persist
for more than a half millennium is totally disconcerting. Hatred of culturally targeted groups is difficult to
understand and weed out, but measures can be taken.
After World War II, the Germans have made a point of addressing antisemitism and of working to take responsibility for the
actions of the Nazis. The German penal code prohibits publicly denying the Holocaust and disseminating Nazi propaganda,
including online. This includes sharing images such as swastikas, wearing an SS uniform and making statements in support
of Hitler. (As an aside, there are no monuments or statues that celebrate Nazi generals or leaders, and no talk of a
Nazi "Lost Cause").
Unfortunately, we seem to be living in a period where hatred of many culturally targeted groups is too easily being
normalized in our society. Until this country owns up, takes responsibility, and addresses its own share of various
cultural hatreds, this will unfortunately persist here, perhaps not everywhere, but definitely in some places.
- P.G. in Berkeley, CA: The letter from P.R. in Arvada left me thinking. P.R. wonders why
some people are so offended by, or are threatened by, or just hate, trans people. I think this has nothing to do with
trans. The Republican propaganda machine has for decades now refined the art of "punching down" as a way to maintain
control over their electorate. It used to be Black people (and certainly still is) but that isn't enough. Then add
"uppity women" (still is, of course, but not as helpful since those uppity women now have a lot more power). Then of
course just plain old vanilla gay people (also still is, but that has also become less useful). Trans is the latest
flavor. What all this has in common is the art of bullying, punching down. These are the words (and acts) of cowards.
It's a sad commentary on our country that socially, psychologically, and sometimes physically vulnerable people are used
for political target practice. Useless to ask if they have no shame. I suppose the next step will be a campaign to
vilify people with disabilities. Perhaps the spineless Speaker will introduce legislation to repeal the ADA. Disgusting
is what this is.
- J.H. in Boston, MA: P.R. in Arvada ponders at length why (some cis) people hate trans people
so much. They're right that it's not really in the Bible, and the sexual predator angle is not plausible. But I don't
think it's that mysterious. For nearly every human on earth, their gender identity is one of the deepest most core parts
of their identity, and it colors many aspects of how they view the world, including how they dress, work, what jobs they
can take, who they can love, what media they consume, what sports they follow, how they procreate and raise children.
Think how seriously people take their religion, nationality, or favorite sports team, and multiply that by 100.
Most people have probably never met a trans person, but they have heard the trans message that gender presentation is
fluid, or optional, or not a core part of their identity, or not related to their hormones or genitals. It contradicts
the most deeply held beliefs they have held about their own identities.
- A.S.W. in Melrose, MA: I noticed that several of the letter-writers (notably
P.R. in Arvada, A.B. in Wendell, and R.S. in Milan) expressed bewilderment over the things that set conservatives off.
While I agree, I find it easier to understand if you remember that the core of conservatism is not religion or free
markets, but the unshakeable belief that the social world they know is natural, wise, and intrinsically fair. It's the
system that everyone labors under, so anyone who needs something else must be weak, crazy, or in pursuit of an unfair
advantage. Band-Aids are the natural color of Band-Aids, no need to change them; history is what was taught in our
grandparents' high school classes, and is unquestionably true. To suggest otherwise is to undermine this static, perfect
ideal of an American social order.
Given this, it's not a shock that trans people are seen as a particular threat. The male/female gender divide is seen as
a bedrock characteristic of the social order, with connections between the two being carefully controlled by social
rules. Trans people flaunt these essential roles and either masquerade (horrors!) or transform themselves unnaturally
into the other gender, for reasons that make no sense to them. To be trans thus can only mean that one is horribly,
perhaps even demonically, insane. The idea that trans folks might just be people, with legitimate human needs and no
interest in harming others, is pure heresy to the conservative mindset.
None of this is new; what's new is the existence of an entire class of Tucker Carlsons, whose daily enterprise is to
find new examples of evil liberals scheming to destroy their perfect social order. If that includes trivialities like
Band-Aid color or the scant handful of trans athletes out there, so much the better—it demonstrates how deep the
liberal treat must be.
Thanks, folks! We'll run some more tomorrow, which means there is still time for
additional comments. (Z)
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