"The Cruelty Is the Point"—Or Is It?
Can you find even one person who "hates" trans kids and wishes them harm?
If I could magically make everyone understand one idea, it would be this: We all believe we are on the side of Right and Goodness. People who oppose us politically also believe they are on the side of Right and Goodness. When we believe our opponents are Bad Guys, this prevents us from engaging with them and solving the problems that face us all.
We are stuck in what seems to be a permanent state of political ineffectiveness because we are perpetually caught up in this high-emotion belief that people who oppose us are Evil and can’t be reasoned with. We continue to vote for “our side” — while our ruling class continues to govern in ways that don’t benefit regular people — because we are utterly convinced that the “other side” is Evil and must be stopped.
Jobs, wages, health care, education, inflation — real-world concerns are placed on the back burner because Those People Over There are pure evil and must be stopped first. That’s the important thing!
Our chronic emotional dysregulation as Americans is incredibly convenient to the plundering class — and “both sides” of our current political system constitute a self-interested, self-enriching plundering class, make no mistake — and that’s why it’s useful to our institutions and leaders to promote our hysteria, to whip it up at every turn. It serves them well if we’re disorganized, hyper-emotional, and ineffective.
When we’re ruled by the belief that Those People Over There are evil, it makes us unable to be reasoned with, unable to think clearly, unable to figure out that we need to overhaul our political system so that corporations are no longer persons, and money is no longer protected political speech.
We ourselves create the problems we fear when we see our opponents as Evil, because we continue to enable a broken political system that has strayed very far from what the Founders envisioned. America exists in our minds, as a memory, but has long since ceased to function as intended.
Anyway: A family health issue sidetracked me from current events for a few weeks (all is now well), but when I returned to our electronic public square, I was unsurprised to find that nothing had changed.
“The Cruelty Is the Point”
The conversations about “health care” for “trans kids” are a good example of our failure to engage with people whose ideas differ from us. The discourse (if you can call it that) continues as before, with everyone hating the people on the other side.
Chase Strangio is the person whom I most associate with destroying the reputation of the ACLU (although to be fair, Chase is very vocal but bears only a portion of the blame). The ACLU has become a politically driven organization, interested in promoting certain causes rather than serve as an impartial defender of everyone’s civil liberties. Gone is the organization that supported the right of neo-Nazis to march in a Jewish suburb of Chicago in 1978.
“And isn’t that an improvement?” I can hear some of you ask. “Who the hell wants to defend neo-Nazis’ rights to assembly and speech?” Here’s who: The people who understand that if you don’t protect neo-Nazis’ rights to speak, then any of the rest of us are fair game, too, as soon as our particular political ideas fall out of favor. If you don’t see why a politically neutral ACLU that protects everyone’s rights is at the core of its mission and usefulness, see this interview with Ira Glasser, former ACLU director, who explains it well.
Anyway, when I got back from my unexpected hiatus, I saw that Chase was still presenting issues in predictable, simplistic, emotion-heightening ways:
“Cut off health care to trans kids”?
“Unbelievably cruel and dangerous”?
Those are words intended to provoke fear, anger, and other strong emotions. Bad people are trying to harm children! Reliably, there was a flurry of supportive tweets, saying “The cruelty is the point.”
Of course, they didn’t all use identical words. There was a chorus singing variations on the theme:
It’s completely predictable. You know it is. These folks presumably sincerely believe what they say. They are genuinely afraid for “trans kids” and concerned about their well-being when so many cruel people want to harm them.
But where are these cruel people? Where are the people twirling their mustaches and chuckling with evil glee as they tie trans kids to the tracks?
Have you ever met one? Have you ever seen someone online or in real life saying they hate “trans kids” or want to make sure they suffer or die? No. Everyone believes themselves on the side of Right and Goodness, wanting to protect children. That’s the key point missing from our national discussions.
In fact, a (very) few tweets opposed Chase, and some of those people seemed equally sure that they were the Good ones, and people transitioning children were Evil:
But just as there are no people on the Right cackling with glee at harming “trans kids” by denying them “life-saving” health care, there are no people on the Left calling for “medical experiments” or “Mengele style butchery.”
Why not? Because these are not reality-based critiques. Everyone thinks that they are Good and Right.
Chase’s emotion-laden approach and the predictable responses to it stop people from discussing what is in the bill itself, and the pros and cons of what the legislation seeks to do. What does the Washington Post say this cruel bill is doing?
“Parents and medical professionals who provide gender-transition care to children could be charged with a felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $15,000. The list of banned treatments includes puberty blockers and hormone therapy….”
OK, so this is a bill against puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children in Alabama.
Undeniably, Alabama is a conservative state, and probably they have the political will to stop puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children because they are a conservative state, and they never jumped mindlessly on the child-transition train, as many of my fellow well-intentioned progressives did a decade ago. There’s no doubt that a liberal state like Oregon, Massachusetts, or California wouldn’t have the political support for stopping puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children. So in that sense, the fact that this bill exists in Alabama (and not Vermont) is not surprising and not unrelated to politics.
But is it cruel? It is evil? And why is our discussion focused on the imagined motives of the people of Alabama based on our stereotypes? Why is the discussion not about the details of the proposed legislation and its merits (or lack thereof)?
Interestingly, it’s progressive-left countries such as Sweden and Finland who are on the forefront of pulling back on puberty blockers and hormone treatments for “trans kids.” They’ve already done it, and we in the US are very far behind and seem so enthralled by the Good versus Evil narrative that we haven’t kept up with the state of the evidence. Or perhaps we just don’t care.
It would be hard to sell Sweden and Finland, those socialist cradle-to-grave safety net utopias, as being motivated by hate, religious bigotry, ignorance of LGBT issues, or denying anyone health care. Even the UK, not exactly a socialist paradise but hardly a haven for fire and brimstone evangelicals, is pulling back on child transition as well.
The WaPo article goes on to say, “Supporters of the bill, called the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, said its goal is to protect minors from making medical decisions they could later regret.
“State Rep. Wes Allen (R), one of its sponsors, has compared the health bill to laws that make it illegal for minors to vape. ‘We pass bills from time to time to protect minors from vaping and drinking because these minors are not ready to make these long-term decisions,’ he said.”
The reasons given by Alabama lawmakers are the same reasons being given by Sweden, Finland, and the UK. There is concern about the safety and efficacy of these as “medical treatments” and the ability of minors to have the long-term decision-making capacity to choose them. The increasing number of detransitioners who say they made a mistake or were rushed through transition by well-meaning people is a growing concern worldwide.
When places as diverse as Sweden and Alabama have concerns about an issue, that should immediately tell us to stop and think: There’s probably something substantial that needs to be investigated and discussed — something that needs to be addressed in the real world of policies, research, and legislation, and not on the lofty abstract plane of Good versus Evil, Love versus Hate, Right versus Wrong. Our moral certainties do not help in knowing which medical treatments are best for gender-questioning kids.
Progressives who would no doubt publicly self-flagellate if they were caught stereotyping a black person or gay person seem to have no hesitation about stereotyping the people of an entire state, and imputing evil motives to them for good measure.
Is it OK to stereotype the Bad Guys? Do Bad Guys exist? Or do people with opinions different from ours exist?
Is it OK to ignore the concerns of Bad Guys? Are these concerns really Pure Hate and Evil in Disguise? Or do people see potential problems that you don’t?
Is it OK to place medical decisions in the moral framework of Good and Evil, or are medical decisions and policies best placed in the framework of science and research?
As long as jokers like Chase Strangio play successfully on people’s emotions, we’re going to lag behind the rest of the world in getting to the evidence-based truth: whether child transition is a good idea or not, based on outcomes.