JK Rowling recently tweeted a defence of her bigotry, conflating trans people with, in her words, “violent, duplicitous rapists”.The massive, unsupported generalisation in this message stinks of the worst dehumanising propaganda, the kind which foments hatred, and leads to atrocities.
When one part of the population has its bigotry activated, particularly to fear for the safety of its women and children, people have committed unspeakable acts.
Her slander is ridiculous – and based on misinformation. Cisgender women (women born female) are primarily targeted by dysfunctional men. So are trans people; they are subjected to much higher rates of violence than is tolerable, even before women like Rowling began using social media to demonise them.
Fascistic politics uses foreign and domestic enemies to distract enough of the majority to hold power. The pain caused by hardship and misrule is directed against enemy nations or identifiable groups within the population. Right wing parties in the anglosphere now have no policy platform because policies and promises would annoy the powerful who demand only low tax and least regulation. Their governments’ rule in America, the UK and Australia has fostered pain. The Robodebt Royal Commission illuminates just one example here (contrasted with Frydenberg’s shrug in response to the AUD13.8 billion lost in Jobkeeper to profitable companies). Both the US and UK emiserate their poor for the benefit of the rich. There is considerable pain and resentment to displace.
Jews remain firmly targeted by the right. (The general support of Israel in the sphere muddies the water: Jewish people are tolerable to many of the radicalised right as long as they are in Israel.) Muslims and non-white people continue to be dehumanised. To be (accurately) called “racist” seems to be an unbearable insult to the right, so they tread carefully targeting these categories, except in their private spaces where they unleash. The “woke” (progressives) are too amorphous a group to be useful.
It appears that the international radicalising right is converging on LGBTQI+ people as the easiest targets to dehumanise and victimise. Because most city dwellers know at least someone who is homosexual, the lesbian and gay end of the acronym will be last to be targeted. As the smallest minority and most distinctive, the trans community is the wedge that the right is deploying ultimately to erase all who reject “traditional” lifestyles.
The European and American right both demand “traditional” lifestyles. This means rigid gender binaries, where men are strong and dominant, and women are submissive breeders. Any disruption of binary gendering and “patriarchist” pairing is anathema. They dread any blurring of “racial” and gender sexuality.
For America, this emerges out of the religious right that has consumed their conservative movement. Pentecostal Christianity and rad trad Catholicism fuse in utter certainty that only the “traditional” is godly. For the Pentecostal-dominated right, the return of Christ in the End Times is delayed by any individual sinner within the community.
From Europe, the Putin/Orban right fights from cultural Christian assertions of western superiority. The “traditional” patriarchal order and roles are the only acceptable models. The west, they argue, has been rotted from within by liberal democracy’s tolerance for gender and “racial” impurity.
The Australian political right absorbs messaging from the Pentecostals through Morrison’s happy clappy contingent. The Liberal Party is also pervaded by authoritative figures firmly in the Orban sphere, campaigning internationally for “traditional” western values. The “base” is inspired by Murdoch talking heads and “thought” leaders on the internet.
The degree to which the LGBTQI+ community is being targeted internationally is frightening. Any LGBTQI+ person (or defender of them) is quickly labelled a “groomer” on social media by right wingers inspired by disingenuous pundits. Queer existence is made out to be pedophile, a threat to children. The right is focussing people’s fear on drag events. Drag story hour (a slightly more glamorous version of a family-friendly Dame Edna performance) has been the focus of violent militia intimidation. Australia has experienced copycat Neo Nazi threats on an LGBTQI+ picnic in a Melbourne park and a drag story hour, as well as forcing the cancellation of other events.*
America is facing hundreds of cruel bills targeting the LGBTQI+ community. The Tories are tearing the union apart over this culture war game. The rhetoric alone, however, creates terrible harm. The distortion and disinformation fosters hatred and fear: trans people are suffering from increasing violence. In Britain in 2022, where so-called feminists mainstream anti-trans sentiment, hate crimes based on sexual orientation were up 42% and against trans people by 56%. In America, LGBTQI+ people are nine times as likely to be the victim of a hate crime as straight people. The attacks on gender diverse people there have been described as an “epidemic.” Such violence is on the rise in Australia too. These figures are over and above the standard “extraordinary levels of violence and harassment” experienced by gender non-conforming people around the world before this rising “moral” panic. The statistics are much higher for non-white people and those in vulnerable groups. Murdoch’s American star, Tucker Carlson, recommended fathers “thrash” teachers who mention gayness to their children. And American preachers are fostering exterminationist rhetoric: LGBTQI+ people are justified kills.
The “base” is connected internationally on social media. Media pundits as well as internet “thought” leaders promote shared hatreds from country to country. We have seen with “freedom” rallies how American talking points appear on Australian streets. Every “idiot ball” culture war topic that occurs in America tends to appear in News Corp media not long afterwards in Australia. Networks link Australian political and media figures to American and European “think tanks” meaning that their ideas are promoted here. We cannot say that these reactionary battles are a foreign problem. We import these culture war attacks without regard for the desperate harms they are creating in their countries of origin.
We dismiss the attack on trans people as a fringe issue in Australia at our peril. It is here. Neo Nazis and radicalised politicians are already using this demonisation to garner support. The goal is clear: trans people are only the beginning. LGBTQI+ people more broadly will be the quarry if we allow this campaign to continue unchecked. Fascist politics immerses itself in dehumanisation of the group made other, and then its elimination.
How much blood are we prepared to let them spill?