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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

Inasmuch as we concluded a ten-part series on trans hate this week, we are including a sizable number of comments on that subject.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

J.K. in Silverdale, WA, writes: Uh, oh.

I watched Piers Morgan's interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). As hard as it may be for readers of this site to fathom, most U.S. voters don't follow politics. I could imagine that if this interview was the average citizen's introduction to the Governor, they'd like what they saw. With this more informal setting, DeSantis' voice was not nearly so grating as when he's projecting to a crowd. If you haven't paid attention to what he's done, he could seem reasonable, patriotic, even relatable. The first two dozen or so comments that I scanned confirmed my fears.

At one point, as he was being needled about Trump, DeSantis said, "I'm running against Biden." This could be an effective cudgel against Trump, who had his chance to defeat Joe Biden and failed. With his re-election landslide, DeSantis presented himself as a proven winner who's confident he can defeat Biden. Given the apathy of the typical voter, I fear that confidence could be justified.

As mentioned on this site, DeSantis has many hurdles before him (particularly a bulbous orange one), and he may flame out like Scott Walker. But, he seems much sharper and politically savvy than Walker. Uh, oh.

B.A.R. in South Bend, IN, writes: You wrote: "Now, one thing DeSantis can do is read polls. And we suspect that this particular skill helps explain why he is suddenly engaging with Trump, and is suddenly pretending to be Joe Sixpack." Case in point is DeSantis telling Piers Morgan that he doesn't know how to spell "sanctimonious" or what it means. Suddenly an Ivy Leaguer doesn't know the meaning of "sanctimonious"? Apparently, Trump isn't the only one playing to the "uneducated."

I'm not Ivy League educated, but I know what the word means and I know how to spell it. I also recognize a bloviating, pandering, bigoted blowhard when I see one.

N.Z. in Cambridge, England, UK, writes: I humbly disagree with you about Nikki Haley's chances in becoming the first woman president of the USA.

I did not think much of her, until I heard her speak in a long interview. She expressed such optimism and confidence that this is what it must have felt like listening to Reagan and his "Morning in America."

As a politician, Nikki Haley is unnaturally canny. South Carolina Republican politics are notoriously vicious and dirty. She was brutally attacked with lies and innuendos, but she was still twice elected governor. She is also the only member of Trump's administration who came out unscathed. She is a Southern politician who would do well in the primaries of New York and California. She can therefore easily end up with the most delegates at the convention.

With regards to the general election against Joe Biden, she has already emphasized her youth (and energy). She appears competent. She talks as a mother with common sense. She is not ashamed of her immigrant background. She talks about the awful racism she faced while growing up in the South, and through clever politicking, how she permanently removed the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol. These features may sway some votes towards her, but more importantly, they will also likely depress voter turn out for Biden in his key constituencies. Would you queue three hours to vote against her? I am speaking as a Democrat.

O.E. in Greenville, SC, writes: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) may be trying a Barack Obama route to office. After all, Obama was a comparative unknown who won a massive victory in his Senate race, and used it to run for higher office. That said, while Scott was and is more popular than Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) or Nikki Haley, he's not as well known nationally. His major unique issue is police reform. With establishment Democrats running away from the issue (see Joe Biden's police funding and Eric Adams's blustering), and with Republican hostility among the reactionary base, it's a nonstarter.

Politics: The Trump "Arrest"

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I almost choked on my lunch today from laughing from your comment on the AI generated photo of Trump getting arrested, especially your observation about the size 34 pants. Pure comedy gold! What I'm surprised is that you didn't mention the weird... well, what looks like a birthmark in the shape of Florida on his forehead. It's either the sign of the Antichrist or someone has been flinging some serious ketchup!

Now if only we had seen the thing in real life. Sigh.

D.R. in Slippery Rock, PA, writes: In case you missed it:

I used to watch this on repeat to try to cheer up.

P.S. in Gloucester, MA, writes: Alan Dershowitz seems to have become Rudy Giuliani, minus a foreskin.

Politics: What a Tucker

R.W. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: You call Tucker Carlson a "lech" because of the Nancy Pelosi swimsuit photos and the debate about the desirability of Gretchen Whitmer vs. Tudor Dixon. That is not lechery, a vice that involves sexual gratification. Carlson obviously hates and fears women, and the examples you provide of him being a "lech" are actually him objectifying, demeaning, and debasing powerful women. Like rape, this is about power, not sex.

B.A. in Rosemount, MN, writes: I object to your use of "Tuckersota" as a substitute name for Fox News. As a lifelong (almost) resident of Minnesota, your use of a fragment of my proud state's name here shows your ignorance of our long progressive traditions. For Pete's sake, we were the only state that Walter Mondale carried in 1984. Our DFL trifecta has just passed such laws as free school lunches for all children and transgender and abortion care for those who seek it. True, rural Minnesota is predominantly Republican, but most Minnesotans live in the liberal bastions of the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Rochester. Please consult your resident demographer next time before making erroneous assumptions. Tuckertucky was okay, though.

D.P. in Mountain View, CA, writes: "Tucktarus?" Not only did you baffle me, but you stumped ChatGPT:

ChatGPT can figure out that
the first part refers to Tucker Carlson, but has no guess for the second part.

(V) & (Z) respond: Tucker + Tartarus, which is the ancient Greek version of hell.

All Politics Is Local

P.S. in North Branch, MI, writes: As a resident of Michigan, I've got what appears to be a front-row seat witnessing the implosion of the Michigan State GOP, and I think this site's readers may be interested in seeing what's happening.

In the video game community, there is a concept known as a speed run, where players attempt to complete games as quickly as possible. Games have different categories to give players various challenges to complete. Some players attempt to use their skills to complete a game as the developers originally intended and attempt to partake in as much of a game's content as possible in the shortest amount of time. Other categories rely on understanding glitches and shortcuts to reach the end of a game, sometimes with hilarious results where players can reach the end of a game originally intended to have hundreds of hours of content in mere seconds.

I firmly believe that the Michigan GOP is attempting to speed-run the implosion of the state party using every possible glitch and shortcut.

This week MLive had a story about the new State GOP Party Chair, Kristina Karamo, and her conspiracy-fueled fever-dream approach to identifying priorities. When the state legislature passed a sensible "personal responsibility" bill that says gun owners who do not properly secure their firearms can be held responsible if that firearm is used in a crime, her response was to liken this to the Nazi extermination of 6 million people.

The article talks about the fall from grace that the state party has endured. Eight years ago, the state party had the state legislature, executive, and judicial branches locked up in an iron grip through effective gerrymandering over 4 decades.

A grassroots campaign successfully changed the state to use an independent board to draw new districts. As a result, the Democrats won both legislative houses during the most recent election.

The rightward shift of local GOP parties has led the DeVos family (of Betsy fame) to stop bankrolling their operations. The party needs money to pay the utilities for their offices in Lansing (the state capital). They hold meetings in mall food courts. This has been quite hilarious to watch.

While I believe that Trump, MAGA, and before them, the Tea Party, have led to the current sorry state of their party, it has also been accelerated by Michigan's rather aggressive term limits for state legislators. Because of the high turnover of our state representatives and the continual need to run to the right to survive the primary process, the Michigan State GOP has held a race to the bottom for "candidate quality" and is now faced with the realization that they are now a minor third party filled with people who have tin-foil shipped in by the ton.

T.O. in Portland, OR (economic refugee from Upstate NY), writes: Your comments in "A New Battle: Red States vs. Blue Cities" triggered me. Do you have any perspectives outside of your urban blue bubble? Of course no blue state legislature regards their red counties as a "serious threat." That would require taking them seriously! At best those counties are an afterthought for their state legislatures. At worst they are held in contempt as a bunch of knuckle-dragging, inbred racist hicks.

Could you not mention one example of a blue state legislature preempting a red/purple locale? Here's one: I'm from the Southern Tier in Upstate New York. We could have been part of the fracking boom that happened across the border in Pennsylvania. After years of dithering, Albany banned it statewide over the bipartisan objection of nearly every elected official in our region. I don't share this to sell you or your readers on fracking; I have concerns aplenty with it. It's just that I've watched our economy slowly die for my entire life. Fracking offered to pump billions of dollars into that economy. Albany blocked it without even pretending to offer an alternative. There are countless occasions like this where Albany overrode the wishes of my region. We are simply not heard there.

You shouldn't have to be a card carrying MAGAite to empathize with the frustrations of someone living in upstate New York, downstate Illinois, California's Central Valley, or eastern Oregon and Washington. By no means do those regions have the monopoly on rural suffering. The difference is a resident of a rural/red state feels like they're heard in their State capital. A relief valve exists for them. It does not exist in New York, Oregon, et al. The neglect they feel is compounded by resentment coming from the preemption that you lament in red states. Are the good citizens of Orlando harmed more by state preemption than those in the aforementioned rural locales?

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: The clawing of power from municipalities in Texas is one of my biggest beefs with my state officials. I didn't have the word "subsidiarity" in my vocabulary till now, but I've been watching it in Texas ever since George W. went to Washington in 2000. Cities and towns are the true laboratories of democracy. What blows my mind over and over is what I have labeled "fascist libertarianism," where my state government uses fascist methods to enforce libertarianism on lower levels of government from prohibiting them from inconveniencing individuals. The local greater good be damned.

International Affairs

O.R. in Milan, Italy, writes: G.D. in Chicago wonders wonders whether Sen. Todd Young (IN) or "are too young to recall that Poland, Hungary and (Czecho-)Slovakia used to have the Russian army inside their borders." G.D. suggests that "We are better off cooperating with Russia."

That makes me wonder whether G.D. may be having memory issues of their own, perhaps finding it hard to recall more recent events. For instance that Germany has, until last year, done just that, i.e. cooperated with Russia (e.g. Nordstream 2), against the advice of their Western partners. For my part, I very well recall the standing ovation Vladimir Putin was treated to in 2001 when he spoke before the Bundestag (just two weeks after 9/11). What he said at the time sounded very promising, projecting the image of a reliable partner. Alas, history since then has shown that we were fooled.

Now that I have refreshed G.D.'s memory, I wonder whether G.D. still thinks we should offer the other cheek and still want to cooperate with someone who has already screwed us? My view: To err may be human, but to continue to be making the same mistake over and over again would be downright diabolically stupid.

The problem is, Russia has never, even begun to seriously tackle the task of coming to grips with its own dreadful Soviet past. Without an underlying primer of self-criticism, that thin veneer of pretense has been coming off in flakes, with the most recent and largest bald patch showing in Ukraine.

D.C. in Portland, OR, writes: In response to the comment from G.D., I found myself wondering on what planet "Chicago, IL" is to be found.

They suggest shrinking the size of NATO as a way to avoid having Russian troops on a NATO border!

While I must acknowledge G.D.'s semantic genius, it appears a lack of imagination and/or seriousness may factor into their comments.

Trans Hate: Why?

D.K. in Chicago, IL, writes: Just because one disagrees with someone does not mean they "hate" that someone, so a more accurate term would be "pushback."

There were a lot of "trans hate" responses that I agreed with, so I will not rehash them. However, there are two relevant things to add:

  1. Since the religious dimension of the pushback was referred to in many responses, I want to add to the discussion that this past week, the USCCB (United States Council of Catholic Bishops) released a statement on the morality of gender reassignment.

  2. On my MSN homepage Wednesday, there was an article about atheist Richard Dawkins defending J.K. Rowling and maintaining there are only two sexes, so the pushback is not just among "meanie" evangelicals.

Finally, I will end with a humorous video about the keeping track of everyone's pronouns:

L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA, writes: I have been following the trans hate topic, learning things and evaluating my own reactions to this topic. One area that has not been discussed has been those who "detransition;" and how that it being used by those on the right to bolster their hateful arguments, but being ignored by the left.

At the moment, this article in The Atlantic is not behind a paywall. I think it is well worth a read. The two authors are academics whose specialities are looking at transgender experiences. From the article:

Detransition has become a political cudgel to challenge any and all gender care for young people. This may be one reason right-wing outlets have prominently featured Beck [a detransitioner], who has urged trans youth to 'slow down' in order to avoid his own fate. Never mind that Beck explicitly states that he is not against trans people or gender-related medical care.


Unfortunately, some people who discuss their detransition on social media are met with suspicion, blame, mockery, harassment, or even threats from within the LGBTQ communities in which they previously found refuge ... Detransitioners who face social rejection, coupled with shame and isolation, may come to view anti-trans activists as their only allies—even when those activists portray them negatively, as damaged goods rather than as human beings who have survived medical trauma.

I think it is important for all of us recognize that this happens and to accept those who make this choice, just as we should accept those who choose to make a transition, in the first place.

J.J.B. in Santa Fe, NM, writes: I have read with interest the discussions of trans hate and other considerations of trans individuals. What has not been touched upon, however, is the relevant biology. Having spent many years as a Professor of Biology (now retired), I think that I can shed some light on some of the less-obvious factors that impinge upon sex determination and the perceptions one may have of one's own gender.

L.E. in Putnam County wrote: "Among the most obvious mistakes anyone can make is to insist that they are of the sex opposite to that dictated by their genes." While it is true that the Y chromosome plays a major role in sex determination, it is not the only influencing factor. The SRY gene on the Y chromosome causes the fetal gonad to become a testis; the male hormones produced by the testis then masculinize the otherwise "indifferent" external genitalia as well as masculinizing other relevant characteristics. This is the role of the genes.

But what about other influences?

There are numerous chemicals to which we are exposed daily, among them bis-phenol-A (BPA). BPA is used in the production of plastics, and is therefore ubiquitous. It is in many food-storage containers and even in fingernail polish! Like a number of other environmental chemicals, it can interfere with the embryonic development of sexual characteristics. Most obvious are effects on the external genitalia. Male genitalia can be feminized, and female genitalia can be masculinized, sometimes producing a true "intersex" condition. These effects occur relatively early in fetal development.

The "wiring" of the brain in a male or female pattern occurs later. It can also be disrupted chemically, masculinizing a female brain, feminizing a male brain. Is it reasonable to expect an individual with such brain wiring to grow up with the behaviors of a "classic" male or female? Not at all. Nor is it reasonable to assume that their earlie-developing genitalia are precisely the same gender as their later-developing brain.

We should actually expect to find measurable numbers of individuals whose perception of their own gender identity does not precisely match their genitalia, their "sex determined at birth." Phrased differently, their perception of their gender may very well not match "that dictated by their genes." There are too many other influencing factors.

Perhaps we should be more accepting when people tell us who they are, and not insist that they fall into some pre-conceived category of our own.

P.M. in Edenton, NC, writes: I might be attacked by some here for saying this, but in all of the discussion regarding "why the trans hate?" begun by the letter from P.R. in Arvada, I did not see anyone addressing what P.R. said they wanted to hear the most: why trans people are hated so much. I will attempt to respond, based on what I have heard from family, friends, and others in my peer group.

First, many say that normalizing trans stuff is normalizing mental illness. L.E. in Putnam County touched upon this, and was excoriated by many here for what little they did say. I will go further: Many people feel this is a manifestation of a mental illness, and (according to the current trends in society regarding this issue) not only are you supposed to agree with saying someone's mental illness is "okay," you further must agree with and cherish them in their choices to live in their delusion. (And please don't shoot the messenger here; I'm just relaying what I have heard from others.) One of my friends has discussed Dr. Rachel Levine specifically, and how someone who is extremely knowledgeable about diseases led a very effective response to COVID in Pennsylvania, but is unable to see that they, themselves, are ill (mentally). Further, this same friend has also pointed out how because one must agree with someone's choice of gender, that is hamstringing doctors, who are literally not allowed to tell men that have transitioned to being women (I don't know the proper term for these individuals) when they have an issue like prostate cancer, because that is not something a female can have—and breaching that subject would be a violation of the trans person's preferred gender.

Second, there's an overall notion that trans stuff is just weird, and immoral. If someone is trying to force something you clearly feel is immoral onto you, and telling you if you don't agree with their moral choices you are bigoted/biased/etc, it is naturally going to tick you off. When you couple this idea with the normalization of mental illness I alluded to above, it's going to lead to feelings of dislike, which can be stoked into full-blown hatred then you're subjected to (and possibly wallow in, due to your social media exposure) outright idiocy like The Daily Wire.

A lot of the same people who feel this way about trans stuff still DO feel this way about homosexuality, and homosexual marriages—they've accepted both things in society, but they don't like it. And given that dislike and how they feel they "lost" at the homosexual issue, they are more determined than ever to "win" here.

Please understand: these are not my personal views—mine are more tolerant than those. But these are the views of many, and in all of the discussion about trans issues that this site has run over the past few weeks, I haven't seen either of these mentioned—and I really think that elements of both have fed into a lot of the trans hate going on.

Trans Hate: Pronouns

B.S. in Denville, NJ, writes: As a former editor and armchair linguist, I wanted to respond to several of the readers who've written in telling people who are resistant to using "they" to refer to a specific person (of which, full disclosure, I am one) to get over it. I'd like to shed some light on why, for many people, it's not so easy.

First, the common claim that "they" has been used for hundreds of years to refer to singular entities, including people, is true, but there is an important nuance that this argument overlooks. L.R.H. in Oakland linked to an article discussing the history of singular "they." That article gave a reference to singular "they" appearing as far back as 1375, where its antecedent was "each man." What's important to note here is that "each man" is a nonspecific, indefinite entity. The same article references the New Oxford American Dictionary's claim that singular "they" is "generally accepted" when referring to indefinite antecedents, and also "common," but importantly, "less widely accepted" with definite nouns. This latter sense, which includes the use of "they" to refer to a specific person whose gender is known, is much more recent (as in, nearly impossible to attest before 2005 or so). This is also the sense that people have trouble wrapping their minds around.

My second point I believe explains why, though I'd love to hear an expert linguist's opinion. Pronouns in English are what is called a "closed class." Words in this class are much more resistant to change than open class words like nouns. As other readers have pointed out, we add new nouns to our vocabulary all the time, or assign them new meanings. But we very rarely do the same with closed class words. (We're so reluctant to mucking around with closed classes that sounds like th and wh that were common in ancestral forms of English are now only common among closed class words, but relatively rare in open classes as the language has evolved.)

This is why, to me and many others, it's jarring to think of a specific, known person as a "they." The word simply was not used in this sense when we were young children becoming native speakers of English, and it being part of a closed class means we don't like using it in novel ways. My personal solution, which has worked fine for me so far, is to eschew third-person pronouns altogether when dealing with those who prefer "they." After all, when interfacing one-on-one, third-person pronouns aren't used, and it's easy enough just to use the person's name in all other places. (Used repeatedly it's perhaps a bit awkward, but still less awkward than using "they.")

S.M. in Morganton, GA, writes: In response to R.L. in Alameda: Thank you! Your comparison of "Robert" to "Bob" with regards to pronouns was perfect.

However, my experience has not been "If someone meets me and presumes to call me 'Bob,' I will politely correct them and that is the end of it." My former name is Michael. One of the reasons I now go by another one of my names is how many people called me "Mike." I would politely correct them, they would look at me funny, and then continue to call me Mike.

I am not surprised we are struggling with pronouns when it is my experience that we struggle, as a culture, to even respect people's names.

Trans Hate: Trans People and Jews

M.F. in Oakville, ON, Canada, writes: I know you've indicated an intention to wrap up this discussion for now, but there were two comments in your wrap-up item that I simply can't let pass without comment.

I so agree with virtually everything E.J. in Woodstock had to say, but I want to address their comment that "trans is the new Jewish."

It isn't that trans people have replaced Jews for far-right hatemongers, it's merely the current emphasis. Trans people were also a target of the Nazi regime. One of the first organizations to study trans issues—including the first forays into gender confirmation surgery—was the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin. It was violently attacked by a Nazi mob in May of 1933. It was among the first book burnings, and most of the public domain images of Nazi book burnings are from that incident.

But it isn't just that fascist hatred for trans people isn't new; it's also that fascist hatred for trans people hasn't replaced hatred for Jews. There is a strong undercurrent of antisemitism in the anti-trans movement. One of the leading British TERFs, for example, has claimed many Jews are profiting from "promoting" transsexual identity. Other leading British TERFs have openly collaborated with fascists, both in public propaganda efforts and in public rallies.

And I want to challenge the comment from R.C. in Denver: "I worry that some trans kids are making decisions they will regret, either getting top surgery... or going in opposite sex hormones..." This is a dishonest transphobic talking point that gets bandied about with startling regularity. R.C. has clearly bought the lie that a child can simply say "Hey, I'm trans" and within days they'll be on hormone treatment with surgery scheduled within weeks.

In fact, a diagnosis that a child is trans requires a persistent and consistent identification over time. Getting a child (or even an adult) to an initial appointment with a specialist can take years. And even if a child does get through the hoops and the gatekeeping before they turn 18, the standard of care (with rare exceptions) is social transition and puberty blockers, not gender confirmation surgery and hormone replacement. RC's "concern" is the moral equivalent of an antisemitic blood libel; an utter fabrication used to justify irrational hatred.

I.T. in Orlando, FL, writes: Thank you for that piquant placement of the ludicrous claim from R.W. in Brooklyn that trans hate is a new phenomenon, immediately after two other responses that recount the plight of trans people during the Holocaust. I can certainly understand someone being offended when hearing casual and laughable comparisons to Nazi Germany (e.g., mask mandates in Applebees). However, in this case, the comparison seems to be on the nose.

At this moment, the right-wing propaganda machine has indeed seized upon their image as a prominent recruitment tool, as R.W. correctly pointed out. But to suggest that this is the first time that trans people have been the targets for hate, and to suggest that this hate has only been birthed by their usefulness as such a tool, and not by an already-extant historic hatred that is just as real and just as malignant as any antisemitism, is thoughtless. I would argue that pointing out the newness of this particular surge in trans hate, as well as the fact of it being a recruitment tool, only strengthens the analogy to Nazi Germany! A radical right-wing party looks to gain more power by exploiting their base's hatred of a historically marginalized community. For some party leaders, the vitriol is genuine, while for others, it is simply convenient, but in any case, the potential for increased violence is clear to anyone who is paying attention. While one could make an argument that this analogy is lazy (I personally would not but one would not be incorrect to point out that the comparison is made quite often), the suggestion that it is facile ignores the moment that we face.

I understand the knee-jerk tendency to be offended by Holocaust comparisons. I am Jewish and, like many people who have invested their identity in a title, I often feel the compulsion to shoehorn that piece of myself into conversations (as I just did). It is human to do so—we crave the opportunity to tell others our story. But telling your story by stifling another's is tacky. Yes, the Holocaust was an unfathomable moment for our people, but to prohibit comparisons to it (especially in this case, when it certainly seems appropriate) is to engage in the ever-nauseating Oppression Olympics. Such arguments are cruelly dismissive of trans peoples' experiences. I also believe the assertion that antisemitism is more complex than any other hatred is similarly dismissive. Now, I am not a historian and would therefore make no arguments against the complexity of the history of anti-Jewish sentiments. However, it is my opinion that, when it comes to the hatred that takes root in an individual's heart, it is like the glass onion, in that it may appear complex, but it is quite transparent: I am scared and angry and I need an "other" to blame. Let's not elevate and empower it with any more substance than that.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Responding to R.W. in Brooklyn, this second generation American Jew could not disagree more. The Nazis didn't just flip a switch and start murdering the 6 millions Jews (and 6 million others, a detail that is often left out). Like a frog in warm, then hot, then boiling water, they fomented hatred of anyone who was not Aryan and turned up the heat a little bit at a time throughout the 1930's until full-scale war and genocide broke out.

Today's MAGA right wing is coming after anyone who is not white, straight, cis and male. As evidence, look at how quickly they jumped on "woke" as the cause of the Silicon Valley Bank failure. They can't stand the fact that there is even one woman or Black person on these bank boards of directors. Trans hate is the bogeyman of the day, but it is just an appetizer. Don't think that if you don't fit into their box, that you aren't their next target.

In closing, I offer the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller, written in 1946:

First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me
Trans Hate: Sports

X.Y. in Blue City, Red State, writes: N.D.O. in Portland and (Z) gave a very nice example of how hard it is to quantify how many trans girls play high school sports. N.D.O. estimated 103 trans female athletes in Indiana, while Z claimed only 3 in Kansas. I would be very surprised if there are 3000% more trans girls in Indiana than in Kansas.

The simple fact is that it's pretty much impossible to get an accurate count, maybe not even within an order of magnitude, because the vast majority of trans athletes do their very best to not draw attention to themselves. There are (at least) two trans girls on my daughter's high school soccer team, but they absolutely would not let that be known publicly. That would be physically and emotionally dangerous in the reddish areas the team plays in. Only families who knew them in their earlier lives are aware of their status.

And by the way, if N.D.O. thinks only 0.5% of the high school population identifies as trans, they haven't spent much time in a suburban high school in the last few years.

(V) & (Z) respond: We agreed to the anonymous identifier above because the author was leery of outing anyone.

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: M.M. in Plano writes that the U.S. is not East Germany, and our government doesn't get involved in the minutiae of sports regulations, such as deciding whether Tom Brady's football was too deflated.

With respect, there is one aspect of sports regulation where the government does get involved, and that's the gender segregation into men's and women's sports. It's safe to say that without Title IX, a section of a law passed by Congress in 1972, women's sports would be in nowhere near the state they are in now. It seems likely to me that this makes the question of fairness of women's sports a legitimate concern of the state.

On a related note, I am sympathetic to the position that post-pubescent transitioning trans female athletes have an unfair advantage over cis women in many sports. But there was a 2021 Newsweek opinion piece by Robyn Ryle which I personally found persuasive, and worthy of resubmitting to readership.

Basically, yes, it may be unfair, but all sports are essentially unfair, people with innate gifts of size or strength have an advantage in sports that sometimes no amount of hard work by the athletes without similar gifts can overcome. Also it is underappreciated how much coming from wealth gives athletes an advantage.

There are many ways that fairness is lacking in sports competition, and elite trans women athletes are so rare that for the sake of ensuring fairness it would be more effective to just check whether last name is Phelps.

Trans Hate: Allies

R.G. in Washington, DC, writes: I have been reading the series of trans hate letters with great interest. As a 40-year-old straight, white, secularly Jewish, cis male I didn't feel that I had anything to add to the conversation. While I was at work last night I realized that I did, and it's something that I deal with on a daily basis and I don't think twice about it.

I am a manager at a restaurant in downtown Washington, DC, which is located in a hotel although not affiliated with the hotel. The hotel is a boutique hotel catering specifically to the LGBTQIA+ and minority communities. The hotel routinely hosts lectures, conventions, movie screening and many other events geared toward those communities, and the hotel has many trans employees. Since the restaurant is located in the hotel, we have the same mindset as the hotel. We actively don't gender any of our guests, and train our employees not to either. We never say sir or ma'am, ladies or gentlemen, Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones. We purposefully use non-gendered words such as folks, everyone, you, they, or simply use first names if we know them. The restrooms throughout the hotel are all-inclusive. The main restrooms located in the hotel lobby are all gender-inclusive. Two of them are individual rooms and there are two banks of six stalls each in which all are welcome, and there has never been an issue.

The point I am getting at is that for all the hate in the world, there is a considerable network of allies as well. Yes, I am talking about a relatively small hotel in the very blue bubble of Washington, but it is a shining example of just how much has changed for the better. It may have only hit me last night that I maybe did have something to add to this conversation, it also occurs to me that my thoughts on this are apropos to the final installment in the series of trans issues this Sunday. My hope is that the straight allies of the LGBTQIA+ community is a growing group and in ten years trans hate will largely be a thing of the past.

P.W. in Valley Village, CA, writes: I'm a commercial insurance agent by profession, specializing in insurance for nonprofits. I have several Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) chapters as clients. As a consequence, I have to really know what these organizations are like in order to insure them properly.

PFLAG was founded in 1973 to help friends and families work through the issues associated with having gay kids. Because of who they are and what they do, PFLAG is always at the leading edge of whatever is happening with respect to this "families and friends learning to understand" issue.

More specifically, for well more than a decade, a typically PFLAG chapter spends upwards of 50% of their time addressing the trans issue, rather than the LG issue. This being true for PFLAG chapters long before trans became a hot topic.

So if someone feels they need help, PFLAG is a superb resources to know about. With better than 400 local chapters nationwide.

Trans Hate: Final Words

J.S. in Beverly Hills, FL, writes: I've been reading this site ever since the 2016 presidential election. While the frequency of my readership varied from daily to a little less than weekly, this was always my go-to source for news above everything else. I also really liked hearing from you or the readers on an LGBTQ+ related topic even though they wouldn't come up too often.

I haven't checked on this site since December this past year, as I geared up to finish last year of undergrad. At the same time, I also started to question my gender identity. Long story short, I had been repressing a lot of dissatisfaction about my physical appearance and social presentation. I only realized this after listening from the trans community directly, and finding out about the true variety of experiences they have.

So, it was a welcome surprise when I visited this site once again and found it in the middle of a series focused on trans people in the U.S. I found it extremely useful to hear from a wide variety of perspectives, including trans people, gender nonconforming people, cis people who are allies, and those who are critical. The discussion you've hosted here is another reason why I've come to love this site.

Thanks for all that you do.

(V) & (Z) respond: Thanks for the kind words, we are pleased to have been able to facilitate. And we run your message so folks know that we actually got a fair number of messages like this. So there was, hopefully, some method to the madness.

On Wokeness

S.H. in Hanoi, Vietnam, writes: Coming from a left-of-center perspective, I have no real problem with the definition of "woke" from D.K. in Chicago, which means roughly the same thing as the term "illiberal left" used by lefty politics observer Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine.

Where I suspect I differ with D.K. involves how much influence left-wing illiberalism has in the Democratic Party, or more broadly in the U.S. body politic. To read the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal it would appear that the "woke agenda" has poisoned every American institution, top-to-bottom. From where I stand, at absolute best, when such media outlets use the term, they tend to cherry-pick the most extreme views held only by a vanishingly small minority of folks on the left (e.g. "defund the police"), and allege those views are held by the average Democrat or independent lefty. And as often as not, the same media outlets aren't even making an effort to sketch out a coherent political distinction of what constitutes wokeness. The point is the derision itself.

G. W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: Thanks for the input from the readers on the "What is 'woke'?" question. The answers from the teenagers relayed by C.P. in Silver Spring are direct, succinct, and well written. It gives me hope that the left may be able to retake the word in a few years when these kids start to vote.

Happiness Is... Not a Warm Gun?

J.D.M. in Cottonwood Shores, TX, writes: When you had an item about a happiness index, I was surprised that it was not about Bhutan's gross national happiness index.

This tiny nation has developed a statistically sound method of measuring the general well-being of their population, which they use to make policy decisions instead of the GDP. (Because, if, for example, your GDP grows due to an increase in surgeries to remove cancer tumors, maybe that's not such a good thing.)

It would be interesting to see how other countries rank using this version of a happiness index. I suspect it might be quite different.

M.G. in Chicago, IL, writes: The fact that white people appear to be the only "happy" or the "happiest" people makes me suspect there may be some bias at play. No Latin countries make the top 20, or Asian or African...

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I just have to say I am very unhappy about the U.S. being number 15 in the top 20 happiest nations.

M.C. in Newton, MA, writes: It just feels wrong to me for "World Happiness Day" to be on a Monday.

History: Lovin' a Battlefield

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: You wrote "The [Battle of Franklin that happened] in 1864 was one of the worst defeats the Confederacy suffered, in significant part because the Confederate commander, John Bell Hood, was in way, way over his head."

I don't need to remind you:

Oh now I'm headed southward, my heart is full of woe
I'm going back to Georgia, to find my Uncle Joe
You may talk about your Beauregard and brag of Bobby Lee
But the gallant Hood of Texas, he caught hell in Tennessee

She's the sweetest rose of color this soldier ever knew
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew
You may talk about your dearest May and sing of Rosa Lee
But the Yellow Rose of Texas is the only one for me

The "rose of color" who is "yellow" would of course be a light-skinned mulatto girl, as in the feature line of Blind Willie McTell's "Three Women Blues": "I got three women, yellow, brown and black," though I've always thought the girl the soldier dreams of is more imaginary than real.

I'm not the authority on this, but I suspect that Shiloh, on the Tennessee River just north of Corinth, MS, may be one of the best-preserved battlefields in North America. Nothing grew up around it; there was no town near it (in 1862, it was a steamboat landing); no major highway as ever built near it. Except for the clusters of memorials to the war dead, it is in much the same condition as it was at the time of the battle and is well worth seeing. Also, Gettysburg was heavily commercialized (though the last few decades have seen that peeled back), whereas Shiloh never was, but remained isolated.

Stones River, east of Nashville, is a bit like Franklin: preserved because it was there to be preserved, but also more isolated. Also, north of Memphis, you can visit Fort Pillow, though there is no fort, but you see the lay of the land and the place where Nathan Bedford Forrest massacred captured Union soldiers because of the color of their skin.

B.W. in West Hartford, CT, writes: In answering the question about Civil War battlefields you mentioned that there "are virtually no Revolutionary War battlefields available to visitors."

I grew up in Oriskany, NY, and there is a monument there to the Battle of Oriskany. You can walk the battlefield and view a diorama of the battle. I guess since it remained rural and undeveloped it was easier for them to erect a national monument and preserve the battlefield. The battle is a centerpiece of the very interesting book, Drums Along the Mohawk, a best seller in the 1930s that was made into a film starring Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda.

C.K. in Kailua, HI, writes: In your reply to A.C. in Nashville, you wrote that, "there are virtually no Revolutionary War battlefields available to visitors." I'm not sure if this qualifies as a "battlefield," but Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania offers visitors the opportunity to explore "the site where George Washington crossed the Delaware River and turned the tide of the Revolutionary War." I visited the park many years ago and learned a great deal about that important "battle" of the Revolutionary War.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: While "virtually none" obviously doesn't mean "zero," just down the road from where I live is the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. While not the entire battlefield has been preserved, there is some controversy about some of the markers, and also about the number of monuments and graves, many of which are only tangentially connected to the battle itself, it is nonetheless a fascinating site which I have enjoyed visiting multiple times. I honestly had not heard of it before I moved here, but now realize the importance of the battle, both because of the discipline shown by Nathanael Greene's army and the fact that Charles Cornwallis suffered such heavy losses in his "victory" that he was forced to limp up to Yorktown, and we all know what happened there (including a very nicely preserved battlefield).

Here in North Carolina there are also preserved battlefields for Kings Mountain and the Cowpens. My now home city was, of course, named for Greene, and it is likely one of the few cities in the U.S. with a major street named for Gen. Cornwallis. The large equestrian statue of Greene at the Battlefield Park has become the symbol of the city.

History: Other Matters

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, writes: J.V. in Madison asked why the Philippine War had such a small impact on the American psyche, and you gave a great answer. I would just want to add that "300 years in a convent and 50 years in Hollywood" had a huge impact on the Filipino psyche. Not only is English spoken widely in the urban areas and taught in schools, along with American fast food chains everywhere, but the quintessential Filipino image of the jeepney comes straight out of the jeeps of the U.S. military occupation. From my time living there with my Pinay wife, I found one could say Filipinos look up to Americans and seek to emulate them, indeed to a rather uncomfortable degree.

D.L. in Uslar, Germany, writes: I feel like your answer to E.W. in Silver Spring regarding California becoming the focus of the counterculture of the 60s missed the mark. Many of those Democrats who came to the state during the Depression and after the war were fairly conservative, what later became known as "Archie Bunker Democrats," "Reagan-crats," and so on. (Also, Reagan only became pro gun control after he had been elected governor and armed Black Panthers legally entered the capitol building. He was more likely helped by name recognition, being pro-labor, and having until recently been a Democrat.) Your answer also ignores the fact that a very large number of those hippies in California came from out of state.

There were a variety of factors. Oakland became the center of the Free Speech movement thanks to having several bright, articulate university students, being close to a media center and the university handling the situation badly in a newsworthy way. That drew the initial core from around the country. In January of 1967, the Human Be-In was held in San Francisco. This sort of teach-in/event was hardly unique to California, but this one drew publicity and people came from all over the country to attend. The Mayor and Board of Supervisors were alarmed by the influx and tried to stem the tide, but only drew more attention to the migration, which meant more people started coming. New York City had a similar, though smaller influx and the powers-that-be did a better job of discouraging more incomers.

The Summer of Love was originally a local effort in San Francisco to find food, housing and medical care for all those immigrants, since city officials weren't doing anything. Once again, it got media attention and the whole thing blew up into a slogan for the movement at large. Since San Francisco is where it started, more people saw it as the place to be and so they came.

The weather was a factor, too. You can wear sandals and sleep outside for a lot more of the year than you can in New York. The summers are generally more pleasant, as well.

C.J. in Redondo Beach, CA, writes: I'm not quite sure I'd say California was that Republican friendly into the 1920s. Woodrow Wilson won re-election because California went for him in 1916. For that matter, Grover Cleveland also won California once in the 1890s. Hell, Winfield Scott Hancock even won in Garfield's election! Sure, the GOP usually carried the state—but they also were the dominant party overall for a couple of generations.

I tend to consider California more of a swing state when the elections were actually close. In massive blowouts, sure, it went heavily Republican. But so did everywhere outside the Deep South.

(V) & (Z) respond: Voters in the early 20th century were much more willing to vote a split ticket. But it's an objective fact that, for example, in 1930, California had 1,599,413 registered Republicans and 449.824 registered Democrats.

S.P. in Tijeras, NM, writes: In the letter from C.J. in Redondo Beach, the Espionage Act of 1917 is characterized as a tool used to combat German espionage and sabotage rings in the U.S. during World War I. C.J. seems unaware that the Espionage Act of 1917 was used as a weapon against Americans who opposed the war as evidenced by: Schenk v. US; US v. "The Spirit of '76"; The trial and conviction of Bill Haywood and 100 members of the I.W.W.; the trial and incarceration of Eugene Debs; and the government sponsored citizen-rat squad called the American Protective League. This isn't a complete or exhaustive list because about 900 Americans were sent to prison under the Espionage Act of 1917. C.J. might want to check this out and re-evaluate their take on the Espionage Act of 1917, and how it was enforced by Woodrow Wilson and A. Mitchell Palmer during and after World War I.

Talkin' 'Bout Baseball

J.N. in Columbus, OH, writes: You wrote:

The point here is not to mock DeSantis. That's just a bonus. No, the point is to illustrate that he consistently fails the "beer test." You can't fake being a sports fan anymore than you can fake being a pianist. Either you are or you aren't. Sports fandom has a rather vast vocabulary and conceptual basis that makes it easy to identify the fakers. Barack Obama really knows college basketball. George W. Bush really knows baseball. On the other hand, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) doesn't know anything about basketball, and in particular "basketball rings," as he calls them (he was referring to basketball hoops). When you are a politician and you step in it by using embarrassingly wrong terminology, it just underscores that you're not a regular guy or regular gal. And note that there's not a problem with not being a sports fan, per se. The problem is pretending you are when you're not.

There's one place where this doesn't hold up at all, and it's people known for being the most diehard fans: Religious folk did not pooh-pooh Trump for using "One Corithians" when all Christians use "First Corinthians" as the term. Trump proved in many other ways that he wasn't actually a Christian even a little bit, and the religious right, as a group, were totally good with it. Were even good with him faking it.

M.G. in Newtown, PA, writes: The weird thing about DeSantis messing up the baseball reference is he played in college and was pretty good (certainly not good enough to play in the minors, but a solid player at his level).

P.F. in Fairbanks, AK, writes: To add to your response to T.B. in Detroit: I can watch more Milwaukee Brewers games in Fairbanks, AK (all, except when they play Seattle) than my family in Milwaukee (almost none) because I pay for the MLB TV package. If my family in Milwaukee bought the MLB TV package, they'd get to see exactly 0 additional games, because of the blackout.

Why would people get excited about going to a ballpark if there's almost no chance they'll see it on TV and develop an excitement about their team?

End the blackout.

Complaints Department

J.C. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: I have been a faithful follower of since the beginning in 2004. In that time I have been informed, entertained and impressed by the insightful coverage that the two of you have provided. And I am really grateful for that. However, lately it feels like way too much time and space is being given to, what to me seems, trivial gamesmanship. I say this with a heavy heart because your site has been such a huge presence during my mornings, informing and stimulating for so long. I felt moved to write this after Friday's offering which included two news items, three "games" and the Schadenfreude and its offshoot. That was it! It's been a trend that I have noticed has been building for some time. I know that you both put a lot of time and energy into this endeavor. I just wish you would go back to your basics. Does anyone else out there share this sentiment?

J.C. in Charleston, IL, writes: You wrote: "Maybe Scott looked in the bathroom mirror after taking a shower and it was all fogged up and he couldn't see it well, but he is Black."

Dude, WTF? I don't think capitalizing "Black" gets you out of this one.


M.C. in Santa Clara, CA, writes: This could be a future Battle Plan of how to allocate Forces when The Invasion Arrives:

The U.S. broken up into pieces
with populations roughly equal to that of Canada. So, for example, Florida plus Georgia plus South Carolina is equal to 
one Canada. The regions are colored White, Red, Blue and Yellow.

Consider it G2 to plan for the Defense!

(V) & (Z) respond: If Canada is taking over, shouldn't all the regions be red?

D.R. in Slippery Rock, PA, writes: You wrote that Tuesday's posting was late because "rain is coming down in buckets." So, is less reliable than the post office?

(V) & (Z) respond: We delivered the post, just like the USPS delivers the mail. Neither of us promise it will be delivered in a timely fashion on rainy days.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: You wrote: "There was an extended power outage."

Hey, hey, hey. Don't be horning in on our territory. We don't need a lot of amateurs cluttering the field. Power outages are out specialty. I bet you don't even know the string of epithets and maledictions you use to start a generator.

(V) & (Z) respond: Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start?

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: Looks like your staff counsel have already been in consultation with the staff mathematician!

The Three stooges are drinking
liquor, and the photo is labeled 'Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe - Attorneys at Law'

D.H. in Boulder, CO, writes: As a long ago California native, and now a Colorado resident, I had to chuckle when in describing the interstate that connects Cheyenne and Fort Collins you wrote: "Conveniently the I-25 runs between the two cities."

"The" I-25? That's a purely Southern California approach to naming its freeway system, not used anywhere else that I'm aware of, and certainly not here in Colorado or our neighbor Wyoming. I'm sure I'm not the only one to mention this.

(V) & (Z) respond: Nope, you're not. Lots of people were pleased to be exposed to proper freeway grammar for once.

Final Words

S.L. in Monrovia, AA, writes: Léonard Euler's last words were reportedly: "I die."

Few have been able to use the verb in the first-person present tense.

If you have final words suggestions, please send them along.

If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city.

To download a poster about the site to hang up, please click here.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar25 Saturday Q&A
Mar24 Bragg to House Committees: Nope
Mar24 Sinema Lays Her Cards on the Table
Mar24 The Word Cup: We Have a Winner
Mar24 The Word Cup Quiz: Answers
Mar24 Let the Madness Begin
Mar24 This Week in Schadenfreude: The Santos of the South?
Mar24 This Week in Freudenfreude: Don't Worry, Be Happy
Mar23 Donald Trump Will Soon Get Some Good News
Mar23 Wait, There Is Yet Another Case against Trump Pending
Mar23 How Will an Indictment Change Trump's Standing with the Voters?
Mar23 Are Minority Voters Really Becoming Republicans?
Mar23 The NRSC Has a Plan: Find Candidates Who Are Filthy Rich
Mar23 Is Florida's Population Growth Due to DeSantis?
Mar23 A New Battle: Red States vs. Blue Cities
Mar23 Let the Mud Wrestling Begin
Mar22 No Arrest, But...
Mar22 Out of the Frying Panhandle...
Mar22 Trouble in Tuckerland
Mar22 Somehow, It Always Comes Back to the Evangelicals
Mar22 Why the Trans Hate?, Part X: Final Words
Mar22 The Word Cup: Championship Round
Mar22 The Word Cup Quiz
Mar21 No Such Thing as Bad Publicity?
Mar21 Biden Gets Out His Veto Pen
Mar21 Marianne Williamson Is Apparently a Big Meanie
Mar21 Kelly Vetoes Ban on Transgender Athletes... Again
Mar21 Why the Trans Hate?, Part IX: The Sporting Life
Mar21 The Word Cup, Round 4: The End Is Nigh
Mar20 Republicans React to Trump's Imminent Arrest
Mar20 Facebook and YouTube Let Trump Return
Mar20 DeSantis Has Some Foreign Policy Experience
Mar20 The Trumpire Strikes Back?
Mar20 New Chief Judge on D.C. District Court Will Oversee Trump Cases
Mar20 Many State Supreme Court Seats Will Be on the Ballot in 2024
Mar20 Corporations Are Being Dragged into the Culture Wars
Mar20 Wyoming Has Banned the Abortion Pill...
Mar20 ...But Blue States Are Fighting Back
Mar20 Gifts and Grifts
Mar20 Hunter Biden Sues Computer Repairman Who Gave His Data to Giuliani
Mar19 The Other Shoe May Be about to Fall
Mar19 Sunday Mailbag
Mar18 Saturday Q&A
Mar17 DeSantis Uses Ukraine to Put Daylight between Himself and Other Republicans
Mar17 Republican Primary Is Going to Be Grim
Mar17 Kentucky Legislature Wedges Anti-Trans Bill into Its Schedule
Mar17 Why The Trans Hate?, Part VIII: Grab Bag
Mar17 The Word Cup, Round 3: Non-Presidential Slogans
Mar17 This Week in Schadenfreude: Who Saw That Question Coming?
Mar17 This Week in Freudenfreude: Pat Schroeder, 1940-2023