The strange, disturbing rise of transgender hate

Dr. Rachel Levine, former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health and current U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health, who is a frequent target of Republicans due to being a transgendered woman.

Back about two university jobs ago, I was on a development team for a key university online service. This team would have regular meetings. I was on the team because I did documentation, meaning I would write directions for the online software to help users understand how to use it.

These meetings were brutal because, like many development meetings, they were “just the facts, ma’am” type of gatherings that no one looked forward to. But, I liked the people on the team. One day, we were doing a routine part of the routine meeting, where each person tells the rest of the team what they are working on. Which, like almost all of these agenda items, is of limited value to most people other than the team leader and is a waste of time. But I digress…

We get around to one of my coworkers, and he announces that he will begin transitioning to a woman and to let us know what that will entail, such as a change in dress, etc. He quietly and shyly mentioned that he never felt right in his own body, and he is looking forward to the transition.

The team leader, a very nice former military man said in a kind tone, “well, good luck with it, and we support you.” All of us agreed.

Besides being a rare moment of interest in a painfully mundane “team updates,” it was also a moment of kindness and empathy shown by my coworkers. Sadly enough, basic empathy and understanding for trans people in our society seem to be lessening. In fact, last year saw a record number of transgender and non-binary people murdered in a single year.

This seemed to start in earnest back in 2020 when in the middle of a pandemic and a global threat to democracy, the Smartest Centrists in the Discourse began to aim a rather odd form of venom at trans people. Led in part, strangely enough, by J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, trans people were attacked rhetorically on social media. Rhetoric often leads to violence, but as often is the case, people like Rowling will whine that they are under attack and are the real victim in response to any suggestion her words lead to trans people being attacked and murdered.

Rowling is part of a group known as Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists or TERFs. They are working with conservatives to push an anti-trans agenda that is quite disturbing. One way they go after trans people is through sports, claiming that women who transition to men have an unfair advantage, a claim that is arguable. Even if you believe it is, there are other ways to deal with it that do not include something this horrible.

Forgive me for being so bold, but if you agree that strangers being able to demand random inspections of adolescents and teen genitals is a good, just solution, there is something deeply wrong with you.

Some argue that gender transition or being non-binary is an affront to nature, which REALLY does not hold up to the science. As that blog post explains, gender is not as simple as people want it to be, and as a science writer, I know how people either struggle with or outright refuse to consider relevant information that exists outside a simplistic model of understanding. But believing that transgender people are “not natural” just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

I have lost touch with the transgender person I used to work with since I no longer work with her. But last I heard, she did well with the transition and is finally happy. That should be enough, as her transition to female did not hurt anyone. I will also add that in this time when the dumbest guy on Facebook/at the bar/sitting at the diner counter fancies themselves a historian, it is good to remember that the pursuit of happiness as a self-evident, inalienable right is in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence.

To say that certain people are not eligible for this right is not what we are supposed to be about.

The last word goes to the great Joan Armatrading, whose song “Rosie” was considered kind of groundbreaking in how it treats its transgender subject with empathy and respect.