The Right is obsessed with gender. This deep paranoia comes out of America and international far right movements. It harms straight people and LGBTQIA+ people differently, and we need to fight it before our copycat Right entrenches it here too.
On Sunday night, Channel 7 broadcast a deeply specious piece of argumentation about trans youth suffering regret. It featured few examples and generalised that experience on the basis of activist talking points and from outlier medical opinion. The international far right is very enthusiastic about the “investigation.”
Most pain that might inspire regret is described by trans people as emerging from the difficulty of living within families and societies that demonise and discriminate against them.
In fact, over 95% of trans youth embrace their changed form with joy. Most have only hormone treatment which has proven to be a saviour of mental health and life. Very few have irreversible decisions made before adulthood and expert consultation. To suggest that any other treatment is common is misleading and dangerous for the fostering of hate that it provokes. The estimated overall rate of regret at transitioning is as low as 0.5%.
Depicting children as victims of harm is one of the most powerful ways that a faction can ignite violence against a chosen enemy. Spreading propaganda against the weight of evidence to fuel this terror is indefensible.
The international Right shares a single concept as the enemy for which their targets operate: gender. For them “gender” is the unifying force behind modern society’s disorder and degeneracy.
The concept of gender in society was meant to highlight our wholistic identity and life choices. It was meant to free us from the dictates of biology which limited women’s options in particular. Gender stood in contrast to an idea of sex that determined our lives.
For the Right, however, the idea of binary sex is the prized attribute, with gender its perverted enemy. The Catholic Church invented the mythical “Gender Ideology” in the 1990s as a focus for the fear of LGBTQIA+ existence and feminism. The term now pervades the international Right. For these forces, biology must dictate sex. There can only be male and female. These (mistaken) “facts” are irretrievably based on sex allocated at birth. That sex label must dictate most elements of the life that follows. Man is strong, traditionally masculine, a leader in the world and at home. Woman is reproductive, but only within the confines of sacred marriage.
They must function together as a reproductive unit, within the “traditional” family home. This unit, it is argued by many on the further Right, ought to be the basis of any democracy they allow. The father must have the sole family vote, acting for his wife as he does now for his children.
In Republican states across America, women’s access to reproductive healthcare has been savaged as a result. Ironically this has also made desired pregnancies much more dangerous too. Plans exist to make abortion illegal nationwide, despite the disingenuous Supreme Court arguments that the Dodds decision was about states’ rights. In discussion also are plans to block access to contraception and women’s ability to initiate divorce.
The intent is that women will be functionally removed from the civic space: uncontrolled reproduction is a crippling weapon. It is not just implicit, however. The American Right is selling this message overtly too.
Turning Point USA, the youth arm of the MAGA movement, holds an annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit. There predominantly women with successful media careers tell school and college-aged young women that they should not aim to pursue careers, but embrace a glorified domesticity.
This year, a medical student asked organisation founder Charlie Kirk how to manage her career with future family. He told her to spend time with babies, to contract baby fever. If she was implicitly unnatural enough not to become infected then she was welcome to her medical career, and a miserable future with cats for company.
The more frightening aspect of this attack on gender is that LGBTQIA+ people have no place at all and certainly not anywhere near children.
Christian Nationalism embraces America’s Purity Culture. It fosters a prurient obsession with what people do with their bodies. It leads to a focus on distinct dress that is both sex-appropriate and modest.
Instead of seeing gender as describing a whole person, the Right sees “gender” as depicting a person misusing their God-given reproductive organs. This focus on genitalia is manifest in the way that homophobic groups are fighting to have children’s picture books labelled as literal “pornography.” It explains why merely speaking in support of LGBTQIA+ existence earns the label “groomer” on social media.
If two penguin dads raising a chick in a picture book are “pornographic,” imagine the fate of LGBTQIA+ people in these regions. In fact, we don’t need to imagine. Bills have been tabled in their hundreds in Republican states to constrain not just trans but all LGBTQIA+ people. The presidential campaign of Ron DeSantis has trumpeted that his gubernatorial term in Florida has been an attack on all LGBTQIA+ people, not just trans people. DeSantis has painted Trump as the pro-Queer candidate to discredit him.
Russia has also been a leading force in social media’s spreading of bigotry against Queer people and feminism. The international Right has been fusing these campaigns since the end of the Cold War, depicting both feminism and LGBTQIA+ existence as societal threats. The attack on LGBTQIA+ people has been core to Russia’s propaganda justifying its invasion of Ukraine. Hungary’s Viktor Orban is a particular conduit of this ideology into Australia.
No identity’s existence is a matter for “debate.” No group (or rights) should be used as wedge issues for political gain.
Australians who want to be free to make choices about our own bodies need to join together against a Right who would eliminate us.